Saturday 14 February 2015

Going to the corner shop for bread

A Sunflower loaf of mine, well done but not burnt!

We were in Swansea this morning, as we'd arranged with G (middle daughter) to drop off some walking shoes which didn't fit me but would be perfect for her.  As it was the day of Singleton Hospital Car Boot Sale, we decided to get up early and call in there on the offchance of there being something interesting to buy.  Well, the "something interesting" just amounted to an old wicker basket with handle and a newish beech draining board. Anyway, as we were far too early to drop off G's things, we went into (nice WARM!) Sainsburys to do the grocery shopping for the week.  Going to Sainsbury's is always a treat for me, as we rarely go there (it's our nearest, and 25 miles from here).

Anyway, as we needed bread rolls for our Car Picnic at Malvern tomorrow, we went to the bread aisle, and there I saw it, well-done crusty bread.  In fact, more than well done, it was on-purpose BURNT!  Oh, I just HAD to have a loaf and when I got back home I cut a hunk and it tasted like the food of the Gods . . .

In fact, I will confess, I also bought some Caerphilly cheese.  I had to.  My body TOLD me it needed it.  So that went in the shopping trolley, along with my normal lacto-free cheese which I can only stomach grated and melted on toast.

I had a knife's blade thickness of the cheese and after eating NO CHEESE since last August, it tasted AMAZING!  I sat back and waited for the effect to hit me.  There was a moment when I thought I was getting the clogged-up lungs but it passed and believe it or not, my peak flow is 430, which is as high as it's got since Christmas.  Perhaps I can - once in a blue moon - have a sliver of my favourite cheese with no lasting ill-effects.  I will know later anyway . . .

Anyway, the bread has brought my childhood to mind, so a trip down memory lane is about to be inflicted on you:

In the road where I grew up in Southampton in the 1950s (and 60s) there were a few shops serving the locals.  Right at the top, by the Target pub, was a reasonable-sized Co-op which served the needs of most of the local folk.  Back down the road a bit towards us, was a corner shop called Haston's (a surname I've never heard since) and which went back deeply enough (several rooms on the ground-floor) to become a little mini-supermarket when the concept of serve-yourself first arrived on these shores.  It had freezers and fish-fingers soon became part of the staple diet of the Butts Road inhabitants.  Just inside the door, was a little whirligig of booklets and I still have and regularly use the Bread Making one which cost me all of 70p post-decimalization.  In the early 60s (when it was still a corner shop with a counter), they did deliveries with a dark brown pony who lived in their back "garden" in a very gloomy shed-stable behind a tall Privet hedge by the cut through to Orpen Road.  Sadly, he developed hoof problems (Navicular - doubtless from being hammered around the roads by the delivery boy) and was pts - or shot, as it was called in those days.)

Down the hill past my house was the Community Centre, which still tested its Air Raid Siren under the guise of the 4 minute warning in my time, and was home to a summer roost of the Swifts whose noisy flights up and down our road kept me awake on summer evenings when I was in bed whilst they were still on the wing.  I still can't hear a Swift today without being transported back in time and place.

Then, opposite my Best Friend Tricia's house, was Checkleys.  This was a real "open-all-hours" type shop, just one room deep with plate glass windows to the front and side.  Against these side windows were shelves lined with glass jars of sweeties - I think I could name them all even more than 50 years on - and my teefs bear testiment to their deliciousness!  Pineapple chunks; Cola cubes; Winter Mixture and Coltsfoot tablet (yuk!); Rhubarb and Custard; Lemon Bonbons, Strawberry Bonbons and the white sort too; Sugared Almonds which had a hard outer jacket which splintered if you bit them; Raspberries and Blackberries, which were boiled sweets; Toffees; Liquorice Allsorts; Chewing Nuts; Chocolate Limes; Sherbert Lemons; Glace Drops - oh I knew them all . . .  With the sun behind all the jars of sweets, it threw a rainbow of colour across the shop and they ALL looked so desirable . . . No-one every bought the Quality Street though, as they cost 2s 6d. (12 1/2p) a QUARTER!  Everthing else was 6d (2 1/2p).

In front of the counter were large open lidless tins of broken biscuits, to be had cheaply by dint of being broken - they were usually the boring sort - Digestives, Maries, Malted Milk and so on.  Sometimes there was a tin of little wrapped biscuits of the same persuasion, 3 or 4 at a time and I still have a scary memory of the "witch" from the dark-creosoted timber house behind the fir trees opposite us, coming across to give me a packet of these, soft and crumbling from extreme old age, just as she was.  Of course, she wasn't a witch, just old Queenie Goddard, the Botany Bay Goddard's granny . . .

For 3d (old money) you could buy a Lucky Bag or a Jamboree Bag, one of which had a square of toffee on a stick in it which you sucked and them dipped into some noxious coloured powder (or was it a Sherbert Dab?).  Even a farthing would buy you a sweetie in my extreme youth - a wrapped small chewy sweet often in a pink/lemon colourway (Fruit Salad), which usually sold as 4 a penny, and were alongside the Black Jacks (same price), pink shrimps, pink false teeth, fried eggs, fruit salad,  Frys 5 Boys Chocolate Bars, Barley Sugar Twists,  Flying Saucers, sucky-lollies on a stick, Space dust (in the 60s, after Sputnik had gone into space), Sherbert Fountains, Gobstoppers, Bubblegum, Lovehearts, Refreshers, Parma Violets.  Oh dear, as you see, some things never get forgotten.

Crisps were made by Smiths, and Smiths only, and came in one persuasion - plain - with a small twist of salt in dark blue greaseproof.  I loved Potato Puffs and I wish someone would make those again - I would be their best customer!

Anyway, I digress.  Mum would give me some money (I can't remember the price now) and send me down to Checkleys to get a loaf of bread.  A cottage loaf.  Nice and crusty.  I always chose the one with the Most Burnt Top, and before I had got one foot off the shop step, the first handful of the top, blackened, crusty and wonderfully tasty, would have been in my mouth, and by the time I got it home, I would often have eaten the top "knob" - the burntest bit!

So Sainsburys, you are onto a good thing.  Here's one customer who will make a special trip back for your burnt on purpose bread!!!


  1. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, I remember all those sweeties too :-)

  2. Cheese has always been my downfall - on a desert island with one choice of food it would have to be a good strong cheese. As for those cottage loaves - thanks for the trip down memory lane = I had all but forgotten them - that top knot which was so easily pulled of while still warm, slathered with butter and eaten (with or without cheese) - heaven on a plate.

  3. Ooh I bought some cheddar with chutney today. Can't wait to eat some (there were trial cubes in tesco!). I wonder how many people miss out by eating it straight from the fridge, when the texture and taste are completely different and in my humble opinion, highly superior, when at room temperature.
    Your loaf looks very appetising. I have a terrible weak spot for home made bread :-P

  4. It has to be room temperature, I agree Kath. Straight from the fridge and you lose the flavour and proper texture. So far, no great retribution, but I am thinking of the Inflammation Bucket (which is the other side of the Histamine Overload Bucket . . .) Still, no more for a good while, and I DID enjoy it.

    Pat - ah ,there we differ. OH likes strong Cheddar. I like crumblier cheeses, and also Hereford Hop, Single Gloucester etc. Still warm bread, slathered in butter - can't be beaten, even though it has to be Goat's Butter for me now!

    Dawn - I still can't resist some on occasion . . .

  5. Hi BB

    Happy Days - think it was Burton's potato puffs we used to have them in tuck shop at school together with the cheesy biscuits. I wish they would bring the potato puffs back too they were a favourite. Loved Smiths crisps with the blue twist of salt - crisps were never the same after One of my weaknesses is fresh bread but these days I cannot always eat it due to a sliding hiatus hernia. So I have to minimise my bread intake. Recently have seen black jacks, fruit salad, parma violets, refreshers on sale. Glad you were able to indulge in a slice of cheese as a treat. Take care. Pattypan.


  6. The Exeter Sainsbury's call it 'well fired' bread and OB thought it was hilarious. It was SERIOUSLY burnt but interesting that you said it was delicious. We're obviously plebs here because no one was buying it! x

  7. Lovely trip down memory lane, wonder we did not pull all our teeth out on those chewy sweets. Always remember my son from about 3 years old, tucking into the loaf from the baker, tearing chunks off it. Good bread and cheese nothing can beat it. X

  8. Lovely trip down memory lane, wonder we did not pull all our teeth out on those chewy sweets. Always remember my son from about 3 years old, tucking into the loaf from the baker, tearing chunks off it. Good bread and cheese nothing can beat it. X

  9. Thanks for the nostalgic trip down memory lane - how I can remember all those sweets - we used to go to our local sweet shop with 6d (old money) pocket money from grandparents and spend the lot :) Your bread looks delicious too and yes, I love the loaf too you mention from Sainsburys :)

  10. I lived near Southampton in the 1950/60s and remember the crisps and jamboree bags in the local shops with the sweets in jars. I remember air raid sirens being used too. Was it a hang over from the docks and Spitfire factories? Sholing was a wonderful community in those days. I worked at Tatchbury Mount later and they used the air raid siren to tell the locals when one of the patients escaped!!! As it was essentially an adult with special needs residential place that was hardly PC these days,

  11. I came upon this by luck as I was searching for places I had lived at. Haston's, the corner shop of Butt's square. My gran, Mrs Gibson, lived through the cut onto what was then Valentine avenue. Her house was called Haslemere. My first memories of Haston's was whan I was really little. My mum did her shopping there, and there was sawdust on the floor. She had to give coupons for most stuff. Leaning against the counter were sacks of dog biscuits, which I would sample from time to time! I believe that the owners were Dick Nd Gwen Haston at the time - if not later. I stayed at my gran's when we went to Africa in 1949, then again when we came back in 1952. Then again in 1956 before we went to Germany. I was friends with the Haston's girls, and a girl called Wendy who lived nearby on Butts road. In those days, there was nothing on the opposite side of the road until the Coop, where I used to collect my gran's 'divi'. Opposite Haston's there was what looked like an out of use small farm of sorts, where we used to go and play 'truth, dare, promise, etc.' At the bottom of the hill there was a stream with wild orchids growing. Those were great days which I remember fondly. Thanks for sparking the memory. Sorry it's so late.