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.


95. 95

Ralph peddled all the way down the lane then onto West Percy Road he carried on until he came to Rose Cottage then under the railway bridge.

Brian was waiting for him when he got there.

“What took you Brian laughed as Ralph fought to get his breath back?’


 “I didn’t get long to change and clean my teeth then I was oot the door.’

“I’m used to it now. I have everything ready just to change into. By the way what boot size are you?’

“I’m a size five;

“I have a pair of skates you can have as I have a bigger size. They are better than the ones that the Ice Rink hires out.’

Thanks’ Brian.’

“Are you ready then?’

They set off towards the gas yard lane then along Howdon Road past his old street then along Saville Street. They cycled on up Howard Street onto Albion Road.

“It will be quicker if we go up towards the Linskill School then along towards the church on the corner.’

Ralph was sweating now having run home, rushed out, and now was peddling for all he was worth up Linskill Terrace.

When they reached the church they carried on past the Broadway pub and then the Quarry before turning left down hill heads road to the rink.

The grey fronted building with a black roof had Blue doors and Brian asked Ralph to follow him as they went inside. They left their bikes in the passage then hurried to get their boots on. Both Ralph and Brian had long pants on now and it was a good job too because it was cold on the ice. They both wore a woollen jumper  as they stepped onto the ice Brian went off a pace but it took Ralph a bit longer before he was confident enough to let go of the side to join his friend.

“Just pretend that you’re on roller skates Ralph.’

 “I am but look at me I look like a newborn giraffe.’

Brian went through his drills before his coaches arrived and both of them began to demonstrate what they wanted Brian to practice. Ralph listened as they talked about outside edges and double a Lutz and Salco’s, spins and twizzles.

Of course Brian knew exactly what they were talking about and off he went to practice as Ralph tried his best to stay on two feet.

Brian moved around the ice as if he owned it and Ralph had the greatest admiration for his new friend. He seemed fearless as he went through a series of Axel jumps all performed moving backwards.

Then he did what Ralph thought impossible; he had his skates pointing at left and right angles then laid his body back and he went around in a circle. Then he skated around getting faster and faster until he launched himself into they air to do a split jump. No wonders he was a champion thought Ralph as he picked up a bit of speed and was now getting the hang of moving around. Brian finished off with an Arabesque, and a Y spin with one leg held above his head from behind.

Then these girls came out who must have been about fourteen or fifteen and Brian began dancing with her they looked amazing as the sound of Peter Tchaikovsky’s  piano concerto’s no 1 played softly as the two skaters moved around the ice. Ralph could only watch in awe as they went through their routine. The other girl was going through her drills her partner was late and he was promptly told off by Dick Hopkins and Maria Atkins who had competed at the highest level before retiring in 1948.

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