The Village Shop
Still in nostalgic mood my thoughts turn today to a village shop that I knew in my childhood in the dark days of WW2. It was in a big black barn (well, to an eight-year-old it looked big, anyway) and the first thing I noticed inside was the amazing mixture of aromas: the fatty smell of butter on the marble slab, a side of bacon hanging from a hook at eye-level, jute sacks of dried beans, peas and other commodities on the floor, open boxes of freshly-picked apples, lamp oil dispensed from a drum, leather boots and riding tack . . . that shop sold just about everything the villagers were likely to need, including cotton and ‘artificial silk’ dresses for the ladies and flannel shirts and corduroy trousers for the men . . . and moth balls! The next nearest shop was three miles away, and as very few people owned cars and the bus called only once a week, this was truly a ‘convenience store’ long before that term was invented.
The shelves were lined with branded products (See extras) many of them in decorated tins, some of which are now collectors' items, but this was wartime; food was rationed and many brands had already been withdrawn and were gradually being replaced with generic products in plain packing.
I remember watching, fascinated, as the two old ladies who ran the shop carved off chunks of butter, adding or removing small slivers until the scales showed exactly the weight stated on the customer's ration coupon, and patted into shape with small wooden ‘butter-pats’ before wrapping in greaseproof paper. Cheese was cut with a wire, and sugar weighed out from the sack into a sheet of blue paper (still called ‘sugar paper’ in art and craft work) rolled in the shape of a cone. There was no smell from the sugar of course, but I do remember the glorious caramel aroma that issued from the family kitchen at jam-making time.
I often think back to those days now, when I see so much food wasted and so many discarded paper and plastic wrappings, but at the time I remember, every piece of wrapping was saved and re-used, including that in which the butter was wrapped, which was used to grease baking tins - and that brings to mind the delicious smell of freshly cooked cakes, so much better than the factory-made equivalents sold today in disposable plastic trays in a cardboard box wrapped in plastic foil and vacuum-sealed to make it difficult to open with the bare hands!
Supermarkets just don’t have the same appeal, and don’t smell the same. I may be sounding a bit too nostalgic (or just too old) but the writing is on the wall for that endangered species, the village shop . . . and I do love writing, so thank you for reading this, if you did, and please ignore me if you did not, and I'll be back again with pictures tomorrow.