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. i

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She put on the bib and brace and turned up the bottoms which were too long then walked to the back door and sat on the steps to put on the boots.’

“Have you done any gardening before?’

Yes I used to help my uncle Jimmy in his in his allotment garden; mind it wasn’t as big as this. “Well we have poultry as you can see and you can collect the eggs from them each morning. Be careful of the geese though as if they hit you with there wings they could break your arm.’

How many do you have?’

“At the moment we have six geese and thirty six chickens and one rooster.’

“Don’t be surprised if you get woken by Hector as soon as dawn breaks.’

“Is that what you call him?’

“No it was your Uncle George who named him.’

They lifted all the onions first then tied them all off so they were all in one string and could be cut when needed. There was enough to keep them in onions until next spring.

The potatoes were dug up next and placed in a metal tub with straw in the bottom then covered. The tub was carried into the barn and left. The carrots had to be dug up washed the smaller ones would be used and the bigger ones stored.

Beetroot was lifted then washed and placed on a big pot. Sarah had lit a wooden stove and the pot was filled with water. The stove was fed with some kindling then some logs were added until it was well alight.

Buckets of cold water were used to cool the beet when it had boiled so it could be peeled and then it could be bottled.’

The last of the marrows were brought into the barn and stored in straw.

 Soil around the leeks was raked up once they were big enough to blanch the stalks.

The Brussels sprouts and winter cauliflower were already planted out. There were also some winter cabbages to plant out. The broad beans, French beans were now finished and the remainder left to go to seed they would be used for next years crop.

All of Sarah’s turnips were now taking shape. The Swede,

 kohlrabi had been stored away and would be used in soups and stews along with the remaining marrows.

Like her mother Sarah utilised everything. Spare vegetables were taken into the village and sold on. She also sold on most the jams that she made as well.

Harry Harrison the local farmer allowed her to pick the fruit along his hedge rows and she would make him tarts and jam for him. Margaret was exhausted she hadn’t stopped for five hours and her back was aching from bending down.

“Margaret you go in and put the kettle on; I will carry on here until the tea is made.’

Margaret put down the hoe that she had been using around each of the sprouts and between the winter cauliflower beds.

She walked wearily up to the cottage and then sat on the step and removed her boots.

She rolled down the turn ups on the bib and brace in case there was any soil in them before cleaning the caked mud from the wellingtons with the handle of an old spoon that her aunt used to clean hers with.’

She carried the boots inside and placed them inside the cupboard then went out and swept the yard before lighting the stove and filling the large kettle.

She emptied the teapot then looked around for the tea caddy. It was in one of the cupboards above the large sink.’

She sat down slowly into the wooden chair waiting for the kettle to boil.

Her day was far from over because there was all the beetroot to peel and wash before it was bottled in white vinegar.

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