Sally at my afternoon exercise class told me that  she and Jim often went to The Laughing Halibut fish and chip shop afterwards.

We tried it but though the food was OK, the waitress was surly, the Formica-topped tables were sticky and we saw an assistant carry through  potatoes in a bucket stained black.

It’s opposite Go Glam and when I had a manicure last Thursday I walked past The Laughing Halibut and saw it had been given a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the last three years.

We had excellent fish and chips last Friday. The friendly Cypriot family that now owns it had cleaned it up, changed the furniture and turned it around. No wonder it is always busy.

I have fond childhood memories of getting two penny worth of chips after going to the cinema in Whitechapel.

Memoir Extract from The Girl with a Threepenny Birth Certificate. We went to the Mayfair cinema in Brick Lane every week. Sometimes I would go with my sisters and, as I grew older, with a friend.

We saw whatever was on – a main film, a supporting B film – usually a Western – plus the news and trailers for the next week. The programmes ran continuously with no break. If we came in late we could stay on and catch up on what we had missed. I often needed to go to the toilet while the film was showing, pushing past a row of angry knees to get to the gangway, and then having to squeeze past to get back again.

On the way to the pictures we always went into Woolworth’s, at the corner of Commercial Street and Whitechapel Road, to buy chocolate money. It was a very special treat, having a whole bag of chocolate money to myself, instead of a small bar of chocolate being divided between me and my sisters. I would undo the ribbon that tied up the bag of chocolate money very carefully so I could use it to store small treasures.

The gold foil covering the chocolate discs was in two circles – the smaller one just fitted one side of the chocolate coin and the larger one went on the other side and wrapped over the edge. If you smoothed out the foil very carefully, you could use it to wrap little presents or swap it with your friends for wrappers from toffees or sweets. Sometimes we bought little bags of chocolate rectangles wrapped in silver or gold foil instead. They had a central hollow you could run your nail across and split the foil before you unwrapped them.

We children couldn’t buy our own tickets if the certificate was A for Adults rather than U for Universal. We had to be accompanied by an adult, so we would wait outside the cinema until we saw someone on their own.

‘Take us in, sir/ miss?’ we would plead. Mostly the answer was ‘Yes ‘. We’d whisper ‘Thanks’, press our cinema money into their hand and find a seat near the front. We never tried to see horror films. No-one would take us in to see those.

Sometimes we went to the Rivoli in Whitechapel instead, though it was more expensive. My dad kidded me that he hid out in the Rivoli to avoid being called up for World War 1.

At the Rivoli, before the programme began, an electric organ rose out of the floor. Lit by an array of coloured spotlights, the organist, his hair slicked back with brilliantine, played current hits for the audience to sing along.

Johnny Isaacs’ Fish and Chip shop was just up the road. After the film we bought two pennyworth of chips wrapped in newspaper. We had to stand on tiptoe to reach the vinegar bottle and salt shaker on the zinc covered counter.

‘That’s enough, you kids,’ one of the men behind the counter would shout, as we smothered our chips in salt and vinegar.

They were crisp and delicious, almost too hot to put in our eager mouths. I never had enough money to buy a piece of fried fish to go with the chips. I told myself I didn’t really care for their fried fish – the fish my mother cooked for Friday nights tasted better.




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