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.


48. 48

He stuffed some biscuits into his mouth and began to chew then placed the others into his pockets as he tied the rope around his waist then grabbed hold of the lamppost and began to climb its length. It was about twenty feet from the ground as Mattheed went up slowly as the others looked up at him.

It took him about ten minutes to get up to the top and he slung the rope around the two metal arms then tied it in a double knot then tugged on it to make sure it wouldn’t come loose then he held on to it as he slid down the rope.

There; done it.’

“Well since you climbed up you can have the first go said Manny.’

I’m next then said Tucker Young but Alan Fairlamb pushed him onto the grass and told him he was last. “I want to go next said John Mason and no one argued.’

He was the boss of the gang and nobody questioned him.

“Mattheed climbed up the grass bank then when he reached the top he tied off the stick placed it in between his legs then swung himself out in an arc.

He gave a Tarzan call as the rope tightened and he swung right out into the middle of tanners bank the back again. When the rope slowed the rest grabbed hold of Mattheed and he slid off. John went next and again the imitated sound of Johnny Weissmuller rang out as John swung out. Each one of them had a turn then it was down to Mattheed again.

It was now twenty past eight and starting to get dark as the lads decided to call it a day. They tied the rope off around the post for another day and then walked home.

“Well there’s another day of our school holidays over. Not many left now said Tucker Young.’

Never mind we have Halloween then bonfire night to look forward to shouted Manny as he crossed the road. “What are we doing tomorrow then?’

“Who fancies a game of Jap’s and Commandos then?’

“We could all go shooting with our catapults; I saw some massive rats down by the ferry landing.

“They only come out a night don’t they stated Ralph who had been reading about them as pests in the gardening magazine. “Tomorrow night then we will come down here everybody bring you catapult with you. We can go along the Black Midden’s where we can collect a load of smooth round stones and put them into a carrier bag.’

What time is low tide asked John?

“Well it was four on Monday when we went fishing so you add an hour every day.’

“Tomorrow is Friday so it’s eight o’clock.’

“That’s perfect because it will just be getting dark we can walk under the ferry landing and shine a torch and then take pot shots at them.

“I will bring some stale bread said Mattheed.

“I thought you always ate stale bread in yor hoose said Tommy.’

Everyone laughed then said good night as they all went their separate ways. Only Tommy Armstrong and Bobby Grant followed John and Ralph back to their street.

“See you tomorrow then lads said John as they opened the door and went in.’

 “You’ve been a while you two; I hope that you haven’t been up to no good said Hannah Mason as the two lads came into the scullery.’

“No Mam we made a camp on the fish quay wi some old fish boxes and we was playing snakes and ladders.

“Alright go and wash your face and hands and there some mince and onion pie on the table you can both share it.’

“They both went to the sink and ran the tap after removing their gansey’s.

John flicked cold water on his brother as he washed his face.

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