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.


31. 31`

“Is that so, well we have been on this train just over two and a half hours now and I must use the ladies room so if you would excuse me.’

“Agnes got up and made her way along the carriage to the toilet.’


Ralph packed a bag with his comics and a bottle of juice for his friend Terry and then told his mother that he was meeting John. He placed his hand line in the bag too along with a couple of spare hooks and nuts from the petrol garage down on the fish quay.

He walked up the road and it was surprisingly warm considering the time of year.

He saw people in the posh houses cutting the lawns and pruning rose bushes. Ralph liked gardening; he had planted chrysanthemums, hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils in his classroom. One day he thought he would have a garden of his own as he crossed the road at the bottom of Scorer Street that led to infirmary and hospital wards.

His pace quickened as he entered the car park where two ambulances were parked outside. He walked to the old Victorian building then went to the reception to ask if Terry had been moved onto a ward. The receptionist told him that he was on ward 7

He thanked her then walked down the corridor looking for the sign that would lead him to the ward. The strong smell of antiseptic was in the air as he saw a woman cleaning and polishing the long corridor. He walked on the other side of her as he passed then tuned left and saw a sign that said wards 1-7 he carried on walking until he reached the ward and then saw a nurse sitting in the office.

“I’ve come to see Terry Lane is he awake?’

“If you would just take a seat son, he is having his bandages changed.’

They waited until visiting to change his bandages thought Ralph as he sat down and picked up a gardening magazine and began to read it.

“He read about how to plant potatoes and grow tomatoes. There was a list of jobs to do in the garden for the month of July and he memorised each one as he read them then picked up another magazine for August and began to read that. Ralph had been sitting for over half an hour when the ward sister said that he could go in.

Ralph took the gardening magazines in with him from the table and rolled them up so he could carry them. He looked along the beds at the various children who were in the ward with plasters on either arms or legs or both. Some were on traction which was like a metal contraption that fitted over the bed at both top and bottom there was a pulley fitted to it and it was attached to a patient’s leg and there was a metal crate where weights were added to stretch the bones in the leg. At each bed there was a trolley that fitted over the bed and a locker with drawers and a jug of water and a plastic beaker. Underneath there was a recess and inside was a funny shaped white bottle that looked like a tortoise with its long neck sticking out except it didn’t have a head or legs just a flat bottom.

Terry had been put right at the end of the ward; he was awake when he got there and sitting up.

“Hello Boris said Ralph imitating Boris Kharlov the actor in the “Mummy” his mother spoke of.

“How you feeling said Ralph looking down at the plaster that covered his whole leg.’

“I’m a bit sore Ralphie; they have had to clean all the wounds on my arms, legs, and waist where the wire cut into me.’

My head hurts like I’ve been kicked around like a football.

“They said I was lucky to be alive.’

“That’ll teach you for running away from old Flashman.’

“I’ve got over one hundred and fifty stitches mate.’

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