Early morning light.
Two words set me off down memory lane this morning: "Paraffin heater". On a forum I belong to, we were discussing how we kept warm in our homes as children. For several of us, it was an open coal fire in the sitting room, and a paraffin heater somewhere else in the house. In our case, it was in the scullery (mum never called it the kitchen), and carried upstairs (unlit of course) to the bathroom once a week to bring the temperature to something a little above semi-freezing for the weekly bathnight. I only have to catch a whiff of paraffin to be transported back 50 years to the house where I grew up, or else to the local ironmongers, which sold the "pink" paraffin we used.
Beauchops it was called, the shop that is, and it was separated into two parts. The smaller side sold a few balls of wool (but could order it in requisite amounts for jumpers or cardigans), soap, talcum powder, bath cubes (whatever happened to those?)' eau de toilette (I remember 4711) . . . toilet rolls, hair nets, hair grips, brushes and combs, compacts and pressed powder and powder puffs, dressing table sets (another rarity these days), and, to part me from my pocket money on occasion, it had a shelf-full of the Collins sets of childrens' classics. I can remember going in to the shop and asking to buy a book with horses in. Black Beauty was an instant hit, and Children of the New Forest. Then the shop keeper began to get desperate and in this way I read my way through almost all the children's classics including Lorna Doone (still a favourite with me); Last of the Mohicans (lots of horses but never mentioned by name and even rarely by colour); Heidi - very disappointing - I think just one horse got briefly mentioned in passing but I loved the story and wanted to live in a hay loft like she did; Little Women (I think there may have been a horse pulling a sleigh, once but I loved the film and the book and wanted to look like June Alysson for years); Hans Anderson's Fairy Tales (hrmphh but good stories); and Swiss Family Robinson, where I had to be content with Grizzle the donkey - until the snake ate it!
In the other side of the shop, you instantly became aware that it wasn't the feminine knitting and nice-smelling side, because the overwhelming perfume was paraffin. I can remember inhaling deeply. The smell never changed. I wouldn't mind betting that if you walked back in there (although it is a small Tesco now, sigh) you would still catch a little stray whiff of paraffin. Where the aisles of bakery goods and cereals are now, once there would have been lengths of that wonderfully slightly-stretchy plastic covered wire which held net curtains up, and the hooks and eyes that fastened it. Trays of nails and screws of every dimension and length, glue, ladders, picture hooks, cutlery drawer dividers, enamelled plates, pie dishes and mugs for the kitchen, tin openers, rubber things with a slit cut in them to take the thrust end of a teatowel, dustbins and stepladders, tin baths and buckets, string and twine, packets of seeds and spring bulbs.
It is long-gone now of course, except in my memory, where it is like yesterday . . .