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.


64. 64

They had to watch though for the ones ready to hatch. They were put back. Ralph held them up to the light and he could tell which were okay to take.

Food was always something on their minds because they never knew if they were going to get another meal.

Many a time Ralph and Terry went without because there was just nothing in the house to eat. There wasn’t even enough money for a bag of chips that they could share sometimes. Ralph being resourceful would make money by snow shovelling which he got the odd thrupence or a tanner from which he gave to his mother. He and Terry also went carol singing the second week into December – because Terry was in crutches they seemed to give more and this money sustained them through the lean times because the main money was used to heat the home. Ralph remembered when Tommy brought the coal into the passage and tipped it into the cupboard and coal dust flew all over the place. It went into the food and they were spitting out bits of coal.

Winter was a good time to go hunting with his father Jack. It meant getting up at the crack of dawn but it was worth it. His father had a 2.2 air rifle and was an excellent shot with it. He bagged many a rabbit and hare for Christmas which was hung up in the shed. It was at times like these those that people got so desperate they would burgle houses and steal anything they could sell.

Ralph recalled the night that he heard someone in the back yard. He got out of bed and told his father who was just wearing a pair of long johns as he loaded his rifle and opened the window quietly he took aim and shot the intruder in the leg as he tried to break into the shed to steal the rabbits. There was an almighty yelp as his father shot him up the arse again as he was climbing the wall to get away.

It was some two days later his father found out who it was as he stood in the Berwick pub having a pint. It turned out to be Tommy Smith who lived down the street. He must have seen him coming home with the rabbits.

How he knew it was him was when he had gone to the toilet and he saw the two holes in his pants where he’d been shot.’

Jack pushed Tommy who fell back into the urinal. It was you wasn’t it you bastard?’

“I didn’t do nowt.’

“You tried to break into my shed didn’t you?’

“No, come on Jack you know me; I wouldn’t do owt like that.’

“Alright drop you bloody pants and we will see wont we. If you have no slug pellets in you leg or in your arse where I shot the robbin’ bastard two nights ago you have nowt to worry about have you?’

I’m not dropping my pants for you or anyone Jack Mason.

“Do it or so help me I will beat the shit out of you said Jack who now had Tommy by the scruff of the neck.

Tommy began to cry and was full of apologies as he explained that his kids had had no food for over a week and he saw him coming home with the rabbits.’

“I wasn’t going to take them all Jack; I just wanted some meat for the kids.’ I’ve been without work for three weeks.’

Why didn’t you come and ask my Tommy; I would have given you something.’

“I thought you would have told me to piss off.’

“I never turn anyone away that’s in need.’ But you are in here drinking; where has the money come from?’ Who else have you robbed?’

“It’s from my brother Jack he bought me a pint honest.’

“What about the kids?’

“Wor Bobby has just loaned me ten bob so wor lass could get some vegetables in to make a bit of soup.’

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