Our poor Basque grandson has been sleeping uncomplainingly on this sagging folding bed the three times a year his family comes to visit. Quite by chance, I decided to do some of my physio exercises in the spare room on that bed and felt I might sink through right onto the floor.
Had to go to the South London dump to dispose of it and the electric blanket that decided to give up the ghost as soon as the weather turned chilly.
I have fond memories of the Rag and Bone man with a cart pulled by a scraggy old horse coming regularly through Petticoat Lane. He would never give you money in return for your offerings – only give you a little useless gift in exchange.
Excerpt from Chapter 3 Woman in a White Coat
I loved it when the coal man came. We could hear him calling ‘Coal for sale’ from streets away and I would be sent down to ask for a bag of coal.
The coalman, his face black from the ingrained coal dust, would follow me up the stairs and through our kitchen to the balcony. He’d the hundred-weight sack of coal off his shoulder and pour it into our coal bunker, my mother grumbling about the trail of coal dust he left on the kitchen floor.
About every other week a tired horse pulling a cart piled high with unwanted possessions came through the lane, the driver crying out ‘Rags and Bones’. We rushed home to sort through our few belongings to see what we could swap for a comb, a handkerchief or a small celluloid doll. He never gave you cash for your small offerings.
The knife grinder came regularly too. His grinding wheel was mounted. on a bicycle chassis. We stood enthralled by the sparks that flew off the big wheel as he pedalled away. Anyone who had brought a knife or pair of scissor to sharpen could ask to have a go on his bicycle. I could only just about reach the pedals when it was my turn and I had to pedal standing up.
Our enamel saucepans and kettles all finally developed holes at the junction of their sides and bottom. Mostly we mended them with small round discs of flexible metal and washers which were screwed in, but when the tinkers came we took them down to be mended properly.
At the beginning of the winter the chimney sweep called. He would first cover the grate and the hearth with an old blanket. Then he would take out his bundle of telescopic sticks, screwing each in turn to his large circular brush. We watched spell-bound as he pushed his brushes further and further up the chimney and then pulled them out accompanied by clouds of soot. Once a dead pigeon came tumbling out with the soot.
‘No wonder your fire wouldn’t draw,’ he said, laughing. ‘We see plenty of those.’
Milk was delivered in tall glass bottles closed with foil discs to each flat.
‘Abby’ my mother said, ‘make sure you listen out for the milkman and take in the milk as soon as he comes, or the birds will get at it and peck through the tops.’
They liked the cream that had risen to the top as much as we did. We only had the Gold Top milk, the full cream milk, for the special occasions when we had tinned peaches or tinned pineapple for pudding. My mother poured the cream off the top of the milk onto the fruit. Mostly we drank the cheaper Silver Top milk.