Friday, 2 July 2021

Friday Photo #4

Dad had a great eye for composition. If I was lining up this photo in the digital age, I'd probably click off a dozen shots and pick the best of the bunch, but he got it in one, in spite of its slightly wonky perspective. There I am (wearing my favourite jacket once again) leaning very mischievously in towards my pal, who appears to approve of whatever innocent skulduggery I have in mind. In the background, two more anonymous kids, very possibly up to a similar amount of no good. We're all sitting in the local park, where I spent a huge amount of my time as a kid, with friends or with my folks - and there's a decent amount of photographic evidence in the family archives to prove it. 

I'd disappear from the house with Mum's ' home in time for tea...' invariably ringing in my ears, walk down the road knocking for one or two chums along the way ('...hello Mrs Smith, can Billy play out?...') before stopping off at Cissy Green's shop for a bag of sweets. I dread to think how or from where she got her stock, but it would always be thrown haphazardly around the shop floor in open cardboard boxes, I don't remember any shelving. This was long before the era of 'best before' or 'use by' dates - crisps from Cissy Green's would frequently be rubbery, sweets teeth-shatteringly rock hard and biscuits would often have an unpleasantly musty, crumbliness about them. Everything was cheap though, cheaper than the many other corner shops in the area, so it was a regular haunt for me, my pals and our meagre resources. Cissy was a formidable lady who'd sit in the corner on a wooden chair, wrapped in a grubby pinny with a cigarette permanently hanging from her lips. A substantial mountain range of ash grew from the floor at her slippered feet and a fug of smoke billowed around her hairnet. There was no counter and there was certainly no customer service at Cissy Green's. I'd rummage around for a while, hold a bag of sweets or crisps up and she'd shout out the price, '...a penny ha'penny love...' Then I'd warily edge over to her to pay. She'd snatch the coins from my hand and drop them straight into her pocket - there was no till in the shop either.

It was a short walk down the narrow alley that ran alongside Cissy Green's, to the park entrance. With no watch, no sense of time and no hurry, I'd be out for hours, eventually returning home with a bloody knee, a ripped shirt, or minus a lost football. Those were different times. After Cissy Green's closed down in the mid-1960s, her shop stood empty for a couple of years before being demolished. The narrow alley became a fully fledged road, connecting the street where I lived to another beyond and the once quiet cul-de-sac now leads to a busy industrial estate.

Billy Stewart - Sitting in the Park


Rol said...

Loving this series even more... and the angle on that photo is perfect. Photos from our youth mean so much more because they were special & rare. My boy's youth has been endlessly documented in digital galleries, but they won't be as precious in years to come because of that.

TheRobster said...

What a wonderful post.

C said...

Oh, TS, this is lovely. Absolutely beautiful writing and a perfect photo (so much mischief in that expression of yours!) I can picture the sweet shop, its contents and Cissy very well, you've brought them back to life so vividly. I was going to say in a clichéd way "different days" but even that would seem an understatement.

Charity Chic said...

As they all said
A terrific post

The Swede said...

Although I have paid a couple of flying visits to my old hometown in the 45 years since the family shipped out, I haven't actually set foot in that park since 1975, yet I feel that I can I remember every blade of grass and crack in the concrete. As I mentioned, there's an industrial estate to one side of it these days, but the other side leads to a relatively new (ie created sometime in the past 45 years!) nature reserve. Next time I'm in London to visit my aunt, I may hop on a bus and take the opportunity to check out a few old haunts.

Thanks for your positive comments everyone.

Alyson said...

A lovely picture and a lovely piece of writing from you TS - Evokes much of what childhood was like for most of us of a certain age.

As Rol says above, our own children's childhood is largely digital and heavily documented so few one-off special pictures like this one. I fear the digital stuff will be lost at some point so important to make some hard copies before it's too late.

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