The Skin Shop

The story which is semi autobiographical tells the story of Ralph Mason Growing up in Collingwood Terrace in North Shields in 1948. it is a story of Hardship, poverty, love, and friendship just after the Second World War. Some names have been changed and I have used some poetic licence to bring the story to back to life as some of the places talked about in this story are no longer with us. "The Skin Shop is one boys journey into manhood.


108. 108

They watched the other skaters until Brian came onto the ice Ralph gave his friend a big cheer as he danced to “The Blue Danube by Johan Strauss.’ Brian’s performance was good; he used his high jumps and camel spins to perfection.

Brian was given four 5.5 marks.

He had beaten Todd Slessor and Jason Dewar had it all to do. He danced to Clair de Lune by Debussy. His movement was excellent and only a mistake would rob him of first place in the competition. It was faultless and Brian had to settle once again for the runner’s up spot. his triple axle followed by a double toe loop won him the competition.

In the pairs Brian and Joanne faired better after a mistake by Margaret Stewart gave the North East pair a chance. The piano concerto no1 from Tchaikovsky echoed around the rink as you could hear a pin drop. It was a great performance as the two skaters were in perfect harmony with each other he picked her up and then set her down so gently. They all watched as he lay back and held Joanne as they went around in a perfect circle. It was the best that Ralph had seen them both skate.

The pressure was off them now so they could both relax and just enjoy the programme.

There was a standing ovation at the end and everyone sat back as they waited for the marks. It was good there was two 5.5 and two sixes. They had won the pairs competition. Brian made light of the victory though because he said it was only the slip by Margaret Stewart that cost them points otherwise Jason and Margaret would have won.’

Brian was right thought Ralph. They were truly amazing skaters.’

When the all the skaters had finished they were presented with their medals and a trophy. Joanne and Sharron’s parents said they would see them back at the car outside as they said goodbye to Ralph and Brian.

“Thank you for coming today said Sharon as she leaned over and kissed him.

Ralph’s face reddened as Sharon left; she turned and waved as she went out the door and Ralph was in seventh heaven.’



Over the coming months Ralph, Brian and the two girls were regulars at Skating venues all over the country. Arthur had begun to teach Ralph about gardening and had given him his own vegetable plot in the park to cultivate. He soon became an accomplished gardener and was able to grow crops and raise flowers from seed and take cuttings from many plants. Ralph paid a visit to Terry Lane and his friends one Sunday afternoon as another winter set in. It brought it home to him that his friends weren’t as well off as him as they scavenged for wood for the fire. The builders had started to knock down what was known as China town and some new shops were being built on the bottom of Coach Lane. One thing that was still apparent was the stink from the Skin Shop. He hadn’t realised just how bad the smell was until he had left then returned.

He played a game of cricket with them all in the lane and it was good to see all the old faces of his friends again. Emily Jennings still came out and gave him an ear bashing for smacking the ball off her window.

Jan Nicholson, Kevin Ford, Manny Nicholson, Tony Santos, Shawn Crawford and her brother Billy were all there and Ralph hadn’t realised how much he’d missed them all.

Mrs One Eye came out to say hello and asked how his mother was.

“She’s fine Mrs one… I mean Mrs Taws.

“Whey tell hor that we was aal asking after hor here.’

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