The time must be late 1939. We are at war with Germany.
I know it is about this date, because of a large block of butter.
Not because butter is in anyway responsible for the war, but just because it was such a large lump of the stuff.
This may seem a strange way to begin recording memories of my life growing up in Chertsey.
I have plenty of flashes of various events, but that’s all they are, random moments of a scene, without any idea of the date.
Because owning a fridge is rare, shopping is a daily task, something that I always seem to be an involuntary volunteer for. I can easily carry it all home in one bag—a nice but rather scruffy one, made of triangles of red and green leatherette
Fortunately, Stanford’s Farm—just down the road from us— delivers milk daily by horse and trap. The milkman, Joe Rydon, takes milk from a large aluminium urn, and using a pint measure, fills our jugs—he later to marry my sister Iris.
Bobby Salmon, delivers fruit and vegetables once a week.
He has a horse and cart—a wagon similar to the ones we see in cowboy films, complete with canvas top and hoods back and front.
I sometimes help him do the delivery’s, just for the ride.
These memories, are hard to put in order, but one that I can date, is King George’s Coronation Pageant, held in The Dingle at St Anne’s Hill. the date 1937. I was terrified of the large dragon emerging from behind a giant Redwood tree—in 1990 I met a man, who as a youth was the front part of the dragon.
Then, into my mind floats an image of Denyer’s, a grocery shop in Guildford Street.
This is one of a few remaining old shops in Chertsey.
The front of the Denyer’s shop is largely unchanged, still with a very small front door. The floor inside is covered with a layer of sawdust, and has been lowered at some time, (or more lokely the has been raised) this means having to step down into the shop.
With wooden beam’s, now blackened with age. Mouldy looking sausages, hanging from them, and smelly cheeses on the counter. Mum says only posh people from Ruxbury Hill eat those sort of sausages, or our Italian neighbours. We had nothing to do with that sort of stuff.
The shop looks ancient— just like the owner, Mr. Denyer.
But because we live near to Denyer’s, it is mum’s favourite shop.
“Everything is freshly prepared.” she would say.
I am very much aware of this, as I am in a queue watching Mr. Denyer, doing some of this fresh preparing.
He is a very short man, but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for in girth, his long black overall nearly touches the floor, he has a white apron over this with a large pocket in front.
I have a habit of imagining people as animals, Mr. Denyer needs no imagination for this, He really does look like a Penquin as he waddles around his shop.
He places the large block of butter on to the marble topped counter.
Leaning back with one eye closed, his knife hovers for a moment while he judges where he will cut off about half a pound.
Placing this carefully on the scales, adding a little till the scales show eight ounces , he scoops it up with a flourish, and starts patting this with a pair of flat wooden paddles—almost as if he is playing keepy-uppy—until it resembles half a pound of butter, then wrapping it up as if it is some sort of art.
Every other shop sells ready packed.
That’s Denyer’s for you, everything freshly prepared.
A lump of butter, being knocked about with a couple of sticks, by somebody resembling a penquin, really makes an impression on a young boy, something to remember.
Holding it up for the waiting queue to admire, he says.
“Now then ladies, take a good look at this lovely pack of butter, it will be the last time I’ll be able to do this for you, rationing starts next week.”
He took a matchbox from his apron pocket and held it up for all to see, saying.
“This is how much butter each of you will be allowed for a whole week, just 2 ounces.
Rationing started in January 1940. I now have a starting point—the last week in December 1939.