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.


35. 35

“Would you said Ralph as each of them gave him their fish.

Bill dispatched each fish in seconds then placed them into the carrier bags.

“If you ask George Cottingham nicely he will batter and fry them for you as long as you buy chips with them.’

They all walked up the bank then headed for the fish and chip shop it was just gone 7 pm and George Cottingham had been open since six o’clock when he knew that he would get people either finishing work or mother’s sending their kids around for something for tea. The six of them walked into the shop looking like the dead end kids Alan Fairlamb and Tucker Young had a cap on, they were all wearing woollen gansey’s and short pants that were too big for them.

“Hello Mr Cottingham my uncle Bill says if I ask nicely you will fry our fish up for us that we caught.’

He did, did he? Let us see then what you have.’

They all stood showing George what they had caught.’

“I reckon you will be wanting some chips to go with all that will you.’

“Aye and can I have two bottles of Wilkinson’s lemonade an aal please.’

George took all the fish then washed it under the tap then dried it off before he dropped it all into the tray of batter that he’d made up and then placed it in the fryer. The fish sizzled as the heat from the beef dripping cooked the fish. They all sat on a wooden bench by the window as George turned the fish over.

“Where’s Bobby Grant is he not with you all?’

“No Mr Cottingham, his mother wouldn’t let him come wi us; she said that she had nae money t’ give him.’

“I see; right then if I cook this fish for you all then you must do me a favour.’

“Anything Mr Cottingham; what do you want us to do?’

I want you to take a parcel of fish and chips around and give them to Florie Grant for me.’

“Yeah we will do that on wor way yem.’

 “Good; now make sure that they are hot mind because if she comes in telling me they are cold. I won’t fry you another fish the next time you ask.’

“We will Mr Cottingham; we promise won’t we lads.’

“Good, now give me a minute and I will wrap them all up for you.’

“Do you all want salt and vinegar on?’

“Aye,’ and some batter an aal please.’

George laughed as he began to scoop the chips out first and set them into the draining tray.

He took a large scoop and lifted on the fish and set them aside so the grease would fall back into the pan then he collected the batter and placed that in the corner until he’d parcelled up the chips.

So Ralph it’s six bags of chips is it?’

“Aye; Mr Cottingham I’m taking them yem for me mother.’ I will wrap them in two’s then. “Here give me that bag; George turned the bag inside out so that the dry part was now on the inside. He then placed the three big parcels inside.

“Two bottles of lemonade as well; that’ll be three and sixpence Ralphie.’

“Ralph handed him five bob and then George went into the till and gave him change.

He gave all the rest chips with their fish then placed four pieces of haddock in newspaper and then a huge parcel of chips.

“These are for Florie Ralphie; I trust you to take them to her house first.’

George put them into a separate bag then handed it over.

“Thanks’ Mr Cottingham they all said as they walked down the road.’

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