Sunday 4 December 2011

My favourite shops . . .

This follows a set pattern for me, in chronological order. From the age of little till my teens, sweetie shops were IT. I could tell you the range of sweets for sale in any sweetie shop in our part of Southampton, and can still recall the wonderful one at Weston Park, with its huge counter of penny sweets, four for a penny sweets, parma violets, Spanish Gold "tobacco", chocolate fish, mushrooms, shrimps, lips, false teeth (these latter three in a tasteful Germoline pink), Flying Saucers, Gobstoppers, "cigarettes", Opal Fruits, Lovehearts, Sherbert Dabs, Rainbow drops, Lucky Bags, Fizzer bars, Five Boys chocolate, Frys Chocolate Cream bars, and many of the chocolate bars still on sale today (though with different names). Then there were the sweetie jars (now, I note, being offered for sale (empty) at Antiques Fairs for upwards of £20 a time!!!) Rows and rows of them with anything from Barley Sugar Twists, Peardrops, Quality Street (always too expensive to buy!), rhubarb and custard, chocolate limes, apple drops, acid drops, kola cubes, blackberries and raspberries, pineapple chunks, to the - horrid to me - clove balls, aniseed balls, Fox's Glacier Mints, Fisherman's Friends, Zubes, Cough Candy and Coltsfood Rock. No wonder I had so many fillings!!!

Around ten, my taste in magazines changed from comics (the Beano and the Dandy religiously every week) to taking Horse and Hound weekly. I used to always look at the Countryman magazine too and Country Life (ideas beyond my station there!) I was never far from books, but they were usually the sort on offer at the Library (I devoured four new books every week), or the offerings in the hardware store down the road, which were mainly Enid Blyton (whose books I scorned as they didn't have PONIES in them) to the Children's Classics, which I read my way through. Then when I got my first job at 16, I discovered the delights of Gilbert's Bookshop in Southampton, house in a tall terraced Regency building, and it was my first port of call on pay-day. My collection of antiquarian horse books dates from that time and I still have them all, and have greatly added to that collection over the years, and still do. I have been a bookaholic all my life and needless to say, rarely come home empty handed from the car boot sale (another 4 books today!) and our regular trips to Hay-on-Wye are one of our greatest pleasures.

Around this time (16) I got my first pony, and although he was only a yearling, and spent lots of my wages buying equipment for him from the saddler's at the bottom of Southampton High Street. How I LOVED to go in that shop - the smell of leather was so seductive - and I bought my first saddle by paying £1 a week for it. It was a 16" half panel leather-lined pony saddle and cost me £16 - £1 an inch . . . and it was a bright London Tan colour when I first got it. Subsequently I bought a girth (red nylon I seem to remember), linen saddle cloth (white with red and white Tattersall check), numbered stirrup leathers and solid nickle stirrups.

Food for Maize (my pony) was initially bought in 7 lb brown paper bags from a feed merchants in Woolston. I would go and buy 7 lb bags of broad bran (huge flat flakes, not like the rubbish you get today), rolled oats, pony nuts, and rolled barley and stagger home on the bus with them. I bought linseed and boiled it up on the cooker. Eventually I saw sense and bought my feed in half hundredweight sacks which lived in the back of the larder, underneath the stairs.

My dad gave me my first initiation into the delights of antiques shops and I can remember us regularly looking in the windows of the ones in Wickham when we all went out for a Sunday drive. We never went inside though, as we couldn't afford to buy anything, and didn't want to be "time-wasters" . . . He would have loved the Antiques fairs we go to now, and was no stranger to buying stuff at auction as he bought old prints to use the glass for painting his copies of Impressionist paintings on. I still have them . . . A few old chairs came our way in the same manner - half a crown a time perhaps - and a jug and basin set (very plain with a grey pattern). My real love of antiques has come since I married my OH, although when I lived just outside Salisbury I always used to buy little things from the antiques and junk shops in Lammas Street, and the big collection of antiques stands where Sainsburys now is. Little sugar sifter spoons at 50p a time, blue and white china, interesting little bits. Dorchester Market was another hunting ground of mine.

Somewhere along the line came my interests in crafts and making things, embroidery, sewing generally, quilts, knitting etc, and so I have been in enough shops to have stashes of material, wool and craft paraphenalia. This has been passed on to my eldest daughter though her sister rolls her eyes and sighs if she sees me stroking wool or trying to persuade myself NOT to buy another piece of material . . .

What are your favourite shops?

P.S. Tippy is hopefully on the mend again - cheese got him "moving" (a bit too well!), but today he is eating a little and has been out hunting. Currently asleep on our bed . . .


  1. I am so happy to hear that Tippy is ok. I have had that happen a few times and is quite concerning.
    I love your taste discriptions. Funny how things change as we get older and (hopefully) wiser! LOL
    Have a wonderful week and take care.

  2. I was lucky enough to have an aunt and uncle who ran a newsagents. Whenever I visited they let me try anything new, and I got out of date comics for free.

    Near to where I lived, my favourite shops were mostly ones my Nan took me to when she wanted to treat me. These were the toy shop that stocked Britains farm and horse models, and the gift shop where she bought me Beswick horses as a special treat. Sadly, all those gifts were given away by my parents when they decided I was "too old" for them.

    On Saturday mornings, I would run errands. I would go to the corner shop for bread and anything needed urgently for the weekend. This may have seemed a chore, but the place was run by an elderly couple and their slightly gormless son, who knew their customers and made us feel welcome. (They also constantly bickered amongst themselves, so I had an early introduction to Jewish humour). Some weekends I also went to the shore repairers, who had a sideline selling stamps. If I had been given pocket money, it often went on adding to my collection.

  3. I missed your 'update on Tippy' post and had been wondering about him. [But then, somewhere I 'lost' a whole day last week and was astonished when I was told it was Friday!]
    When cats are poorly it can be so difficult to medicate them. They get that wild look in the eye and run when approached. I've gotten many a scratch and a few bites while trying to hold down a struggling feline. The vet always pops a pill in and makes it look simple.
    I think you and I could happily poke through shops together. While I don't knit, I do like to admire the yarns--and any place smelling of leather and horse feed would draw me in.
    Books--oh dear--especially older books! Fabric--I should live long enough to use what I already have! Being on a tight budget does make one more sensible.

  4. So glad to hear Tippy's OK. That's good news.

  5. Glad to hear Tippy is doing better. We're on our way home and I can't wait to see Scruffy!

  6. I love Hay-on-Wye and almost all the shops there....not just the wonderful bookshops. I'm planning a trip there before Christmas. Better keep my ourse closed until then.