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.


105. 105

This is so relaxing out here Norman I’ve never had a garden.’ the nearest we got to a garden was growing cress and peas on the window sill or taking a tulip or hyacinth home in a pot to look after during the summer for the teacher.’

“We only had a back yard Norman.’

“No front garden?’

“No the house led out onto the cobbled street.’

My grandfather had an allotment that I used to visit and I would help him to grow a variety of vegetables.’

Do you want to see ours?’

“Yes where is it?’

“It’s further back near the orchard.’


“How big is this garden; I don’t know but it is several acres I expect.’

They walked along a gravelled pathway then onto the lawn it was there that she saw the walled garden with fruit trees and berries growing. All the vegetable plots were neat, with row on row of different varieties of cabbage, cauliflower, beans, and peas.

There was an extensive onion and salad garden in fact the plot was as long as her entire street. “There are vegetables here I have never even seen before Norman, what are these?’

 They are called cardoon and they were an early form of cabbage greens.’

They taste like spring cabbage. These here are called Celeriac and Kohlrabi; both are like a turnip and can be used in salads and stews.’

You seem to know a lot.’

“Yes I would earn my pocket money when I was young by helping the head gardener out. It was hard work I can tell you.’ Come September we used to harvest all of the fruit from the trees, plums, cherries, apples of five different varieties, pears, peaches, strawberries, black currants, gooseberries and rhubarb. The grapes were all picked too. My mother likes her own wine and it is made here. That wine you had with your lunch was grown here.’

“It was very nice, sweet, with a full bodied flavour.’

“The gardener grows seven different kinds of tomatoes and about eight kinds of lettuce. The capsicums, cucumbers, radish, celery, and spring onions, including red onions and shallots are over there.

In a house this size it pays to utilise every inch of space for growing food which we also sell. The money goes to pay the gardeners wages.’

“It is so cleverly done Norman.’

Everything you see here will be sold to the locals in our market Agnes, and come October the winter crops will be planted out and sown. The gardener’s life never stops; there’s always something to do.’

“I can see that. Do the gardeners live here?’

“Not in the house, they have their own quarters to the south of the estate where all the servant’s cooks and maids live.’

“How many staff is there?’

“We have ten staff at the moment.’

“That must cost quite a lot does it?

 “Well what we grow here and the tourist who pay to visit all help to cover the costs. “ We also run gardening seminars as well, which all brings in money.

“That’s a good way of getting the land to work for you isn’t it.’

They turned back and made their way back to the house.

“Where are we going tonight then asked Norman?’

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