My mam found a job in one of the posh schools nearby. It was called Marlborough College. The best part of the job was that she was now in the position of the dinner ladies at school. She could bring home food for us.
Near the college was a grocery shop which mam took to going into. During the first few weeks she paid the grocer from her wages and became friendly with him. This did not last long. As soon as she had the trust of the shopkeeper she stopped paying him. His mistake was to give her ‘tick.’ It was the usual situation. Anyone who trusted her would suffer because she often had no money to pay for the credit, just hope.
She would send me to the shop with long lists of groceries, long after the shopkeeper had lost patience. He would try the usual technique of ignoring me. It didn’t work.
Customers would come and go from the shop but I’d stand there until he got tired of me, gave in and gave me groceries. Huffing and puffing he would start to give me some of the things from the list, though only the bare necessities. The likes of jam and cigarettes were cut out.
My mam was never happy whatever I got. I was always punished for coming home without the ‘luxury’ goods.
There was another grocer’s shop called Gemmel’s in Hilberry Avenue, just around the corner from us. It was a very small shop but seemed to sell everything. A big notice saying ‘sorry no credit’ was on the wall just behind the front counter but this did not deter people from asking for it.
‘The Lewys’ were part of Mr Gemmel’s clientele. We got credit because Mr Gemmel knew that if he didn’t give us it we would spend what money we had at another shop, instead. Being a business man he just let us have the bare necessities on credit, with just the occasional packet of cigarettes for my mother.
A new range of chocolate and marshmallow biscuits had just arrived in Gemmel’s and anyone who had any cash was buying them. ‘The Lewys’ never had any money, so the new luxury was out for us. My mouth watered at the mere idea of actually having one to eat.
One day I could stand it no longer. I went into Gemmel’s and said that my mam had visitors and she wanted a packet of those chocolate marshmallows. He was instantly suspicious, knowing that we never had this sort of luxury.
“Are you sure?” he asked rather irritably. “Yer mam never buys them.”
“Yes,” I said. “She needs them right away.” Very reluctantly he let me have a box of 12 marshmallows. While he was still muttering under his breath I fled with the chocolate cakes, pulling off the cellophane wrapping as soon as I’d got into the back alley.