' The Ragman's Serenade tells the story of four families- one from North Shields and the other three from Wallsend. It is a story of relationships- The Davis family are up to their eyes in debt - The Stewart family have a daughter who has downs syndrome– The hagarths who’s husband owns a bookmakers shop and his wife is a midwife at the RVI- and the Higginbottom's have a father with the on set of Alzheimer's. How do they cope - read this fascinating story i'm sure you will enjoy.


20. 20

 My mother; I worshipped the ground she walked on. You know even now I would give everything I own just to see her one last time.’ She was only fifty eight when she died of tuberculosis. It was very common in those days and illness in the family was a real danger. The health service wasn’t like it is today. “When you were ill many families lost their children because they couldn’t afford a doctor or the medication to treat them. My mother made sure we had medicine and all had proper clothes to wear. “I remember the Ragman’s Serenade.’

“Who was the ragman?’

“I never knew his name, only that he had this old nag and a cart that he sat upon. It was piled up high with rags and on the front where he sat there was this great big glass jar and in it were the bonniest goldfish that you ever saw.’ “Oh the colours of those goldfish sent to haunt my every being. I wanted one so badly.’

“He sang this Italian song called O’Sole mio; I never knew what it meant then. I was only five years old.’

“What does it mean granda?’

“It means “The Sun is Mine” His grandfather sang the song in the words he had learned from a record by Mario Lanza.

When he had sung a few lines of the song Tom asked him if he got his goldfish.

“No he laughed, my mother just told me to hop on the back of his cart because I was wearing rags at the time.’

Tom chuckled away trying to imagine his granda try to convince the ragman to take him with him.

The tip of his grandfather’s rod slapped down once and he got up casually from his box wound in a little slack line then struck.

“Have you got one granda?’

“His grandfather looked at his grandson then winked as he reeled in. Tom stood up as Jack brought in his line and he wound up the last of it from the depths to reveal a nice plaice on the bottom hook and a flounder on the top.

He used an old rag to unhook the fish then dispatched them with a small lump of wood from his box called a priest. He placed them into the canvas bag and quickly changed the hook trace and re-casted in the same place as before.’

“Your turn now, they are coming on now so keep your eyes peeled.’

“Alright granda I’m watching.’

Tom loved his grandfather; he was his hero, his protector. Tom loved to hear his grandpa’s stories from when he was a boy. He never got sick of hearing them.

He remembered when he told him how he’d stolen a chicken from a neighbour’s allotment for their Christmas dinner during the war. He had chased this chicken all over the garden trying to catch it as it darted here and there. At the finish he took off his coat and threw it over the bird then dived on top of it. The bird’s neck was quickly broken. He then sat in his own back garden plucking the chicken’s feathers ready for his mother to make it ready for the oven. He felt sorry for the poor bird and felt ashamed for having stolen it and worst of all killing it; but when his mother brought it out of the oven all golden and juicy; the smell of it making him salivate at the mouth;

All the guilt then disappeared.

 He sat with his brothers and father as he carved the bird. All guilt gone, he ate the chicken with the rest of the family hoping God would forgive him in their time of need.

His rod moved a touch then slammed down he jumped up and like his grandfather had shown him many times he wound in the slack. Then he struck into something solid. 

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