Mrs. Salmon was one of those women who was respected by everyone, she was larger than life both mentally and physically. She was a second Mother to me when our family was threatened with being placed in to care in the early 1930’s. Most of my stories have at least a passing mention of her, she was my Mother’s best friend, I spent many Saturday mornings listening to the two of them going over the weeks gossip. In Chertsey there was always plenty of that to talk about.
As my Mother worked every weekday, Saturday was our washday. I liked to help with the ‘mangle’ wringing the clothes out and hanging them on the line. This suited me as it was the only time I had her to myself. And as a bonus the chance to hear all the gossip. Sadly, the gossip—if you could call it that—was usually about a family who had lost someone. This time it was poor Mrs Martyr in Barker Road, her young son was on HMS Hood when it was sunk with hardly any survivors.
Good fortune or bad luck was always the main topic with Mrs. Salmon, they both believed in any signs, and after I had made the tea, there would be the reading of the tea leaves.
Even at the age nine I had my doubts about how anything could be forecast by some little bits of tea swirling around the bottom of a cup, but they swore by it. So, I was quite interested when Mrs. Salmon took my cup and twisted and turned it until the leaves ‘spoke to her’ as she would always say. She showed me the bottom of the cup and pointed to a cross and next to that, was what she said was a foot—I have to say, that was stretching it a bit. She looked at me quite seriously and said.
‘Now Alan, everyone has a weak link in their body and the leaves are telling me that your weak link is your feet, you must take very good care of them as they can easily be damaged’. My Mother, looking concerned said.
‘Yes Alan, you’ve got to be very careful, look at your legs they’re like a couple of sticks, it’s a wonder to me that they can hold you up at all’.
After this vote of no confidence in my legs, I have been very careful, but calamity. Mrs. Salmon’s tea leaves proved to be right. I was playing football and I heard a crack as I kicked the ball—I had broken my ankle. I could hear Mrs. Salmon saying. ‘The tea leaves never lie’
I now think there must be some truth in these old customs, after all my ankle was swelling up as I looked at it.
Admittedly, it was seventy eight years later, but it still counts.