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.


74. 74

They walked up the road to get the bus but had forgotten that there were no buses that day. They were about to turn back when a car beeped and it was a taxi. Inside was Tommy’s mother.

“Are you going to the cemetery Ralph?’

“Yes, Mrs Armstrong.’

“Get in and you can come with me that’s where I am going.’

Ralph let Terry in the back seat then he slid in with the wreath.

My wreath is in the boot Ralph do you want to put yours next to mine?

Yes Mrs Armstrong.

Iris Armstrong got out of the taxi and placed the wreath along side hers then got back into the cab.

“Ready Mrs Armstrong?’

Yes William and thank you for taking me on your day off.’

“It’s a pleasure; our Alan was a good friend of Tommy’s.’

William Fairbairn pulled away from the curb and turned onto Cleveland Road

He turned left onto Queen Alexander Road then right which took them to the cemetery entrance. He drove up all the way up to the graveside then got out with the two boys. He went to the back of the car and got the two holly wreathes and handed one to Ralph and the other to Tommy’s mother. The grave now had a headstone and a marble surround. It read: Thomas Armstrong; loving son of David and Iris died aged 7 years on 22nd September 1948. Fly on angels wings.

They lay the wreathes next to the grave and stood in silent prayer. Ralph broke the silence by wishing his friend a Merry Christmas. “By the way Terry has lost his crutches and will be running around soon.’

“Aye, an aal be beatin’ Ralphie again in the hundred yards dash on sports day.’

“We all miss you Tom; keep a seat for us until we meet again mate.’

Ralph and Terry went back to the car and left Mrs Armstrong alone for a while. She was crying as they were as they got into the cab and sat in silence.’

Never gets any easier does it said William as he puffed on a cigarette. Giz a couple of blahs of that tab will you Bill said Terry.’

You’re a bit young to be smoking aren’t you said William as he handed over the cigarette and Terry took a couple of quick puffs then handed it back.

Thanks; I diven’t smoke but my mother used to say it calms yer nerves.’

They sat in the car a good ten minutes before Ellen returned.’

“Are you alright Iris asked Bill.’

“Yes I’m okay now she replied wiping the tears from her eyes.

William drove straight up to the top of the cemetery then out of the gates.

The road took them passed the Rex Picture house and both Ralph and Terry looked to see what was showing as the car drove past it.

The car then turned off left along by Ralph Gardner School and carried on to the Spring Gardens pub.

 He turned right driving all the way down until he reached the bottom of Coach Lane then left; he turned off on Trinity Street then onto Collingwood Terrace.

He stopped outside of Mrs Armstrong’s house. The two boys thanked Bill before getting out.’


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