Saturday Memories

For most people, it’s the weekend. Time for shopping, routine chores, perhaps a lie-in, after a busy week at work. For me, it’s just another day of the week now, one when shops will be more crowded, car park spaces harder to find, and staying at home is definitely the best option.

In the past, Saturday was the best day of the week, as far as I was concerned. My parents were usually at home, and my comics were delivered early on Saturdays too. I could read them in bed, delaying having to get ready to accompany my Mum to the shops. Men didn’t go shopping in my youth. That was something wives did, as a rule. The interiors of the cooked meat and cheese shop, the butcher’s shop, or the genial greengrocer’s display, such things were unknown to male shoppers. Their retail experience only extended to visiting the tobacconist, getting a suit measured, or popping into the barber’s for a haircut. And shopping involved walking, not driving. If a certain shop was too far, then we had to catch a bus to it.

Mostly, we walked to local shops, most only a few streets away. The owners of those shops were familiar. We knew their names, and the names of their children too. They might be invited to a family party, and shoppers would enquire about the health of their relatives. If something new was available, they would suggest my Mum might like to try it, and if she didn’t have the right change, or was short by a few pence, she could drop it in later, no questions asked. I walked around with my Mum, listening to the shop-keepers say things like, “He’s getting big”, or “What happened to his curly hair?” I stood patiently, as she gossiped for ages. They talked about local young men, away in foreign countries on National Service. They discussed people who had just had surgery, speculating on how they might, or might not, recover.

The climax of such Saturday shopping expeditions would be a visit to the bustling street market in Southwark Park Road, known as ‘the Blue’. Shouting stall-holders offering supposed bargains, people crowding around their gaudy displays, and the smells of everything from the jellied eel stall, to the overwhelming odour of frying from the fish and chip shop. After my duties as companion and bag-carrier, I would be rewarded with a doughnut from Edwardes bakery shop. This was usually a simple one, but would occasionally be a cream-filled split. I didn’t know the cream wasn’t real cream of course, and I didn’t care.

The string shopping bags would cut into my hands, causing me to keep swapping them from one side to the other, in the hope that would make some difference. I had to keep putting them down too, to pull up my long knee-socks, as they never wanted to stay up on their own, despite the elastic round the tops. When we eventually got home, lunch would be ham rolls, with fresh fragrant bread rolls bought at the same time as the doughnuts. My Dad would be watching TV, always sport, and I would be allowed to go out and play, if the weather was good. Otherwise, I would go to my room, re-read those comics, then take down a book, perhaps my World Atlas.

Saturday night was a big night for my family. The adults would all be getting ready to meet at the local pub, wearing their best clothes, and smelling of after-shave and perfume. I would have to go to my grandmother’s house, where all my cousins would congregate, awaiting the return of their parents from the pub. They came back happy and laughing, smelling of beer and cigarette smoke. Sometimes, I would already be asleep, and would have to be woken up to go home to my own bed.

Saturday was a long day back then.

53 thoughts on “Saturday Memories

  1. We have a regular Friday and Saturday market in town in Chelmsford. I am pleased to say that I know many of the stall holders now and often get a coffee on “appro” to pay later. They also all know Little O and give him extra treats.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely bit of nostalgia, Pete. I remember Saturdays for the shilling my sister and I were given to spend on sweets. We could spend hours choosing what to have, usually buying 3d worth of the different kinds of sweets we knew would last the longest. Once those sweets were gone that was it until the following Saturday. Thinking back, the man in the sweetie shop must have been incredibly patient with us. As for jellied eels – I was so disappointed the first (and only) time I tried them. I think the word jellied made me imagine something soft and I was horrified by the number of bones they had. They didn’t taste very good, either.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I never liked jellied eels either. I was fascinated by watching the live eels in a tank in the window of the eel and pie shop though. The staff just used to grab one out and cut its head off on the counter, before preparing it. I always felt sorry for those sad-looking eels.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed this telling Pete of a different time and era. Saturday’s were always the best for us kids too. I remember getting up early to watch cartoons. Then sometimes going to the laundromat with my mom and while she washed clothes we bought candy from the vending machines and shopped at the second hand store next door.

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    1. The fact that everyone HAD to go out to buy anything meant that we had something that has almost gone now. A sense of community. Life might well be so much easier now, but I don’t think it’s necessarily any better. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “What happened to his curly hair?” I wonder if you still hear that question.

    I thoroughly enjoyed these memories, Pete. It almost sounds like a “slice of life” out of the 19th Century. Society has definitely changed since you were a kid, and not for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The blonde curly hair was there until I was around six years old. Then it turned brown, and was just wavy. All the locals remembered my ‘Shirley Temple’ hair.
      I think you are right about the 19th century. Other than bomb damage from WW2, that district had hardly changed since Dickensian times.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I still look forward to Saturdays Pete. It’s that time that I could go out and explore or go shopping because someone would take care of Oreo. It’s that time too to bond with the kids. We spent the whole day baking today for cake orders.

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  6. I do tend to do my food shopping on a Friday, with the exception of the butchers, which is a Saturday job! I like to split my week up a bit…! Tuesday is Pilates, Thursday another exercise class. The rest of the week is then free for meeting friends and doing fun stuff

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    1. I try to get everything done by Thursday evening. Things get a bit hectic around here once Friday begins. That’s hectic by Norfolk standards of course, so something like a Sunday afternoon, in any London borough. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My Mom was basically a single parent so I remember Saturdays as the day when I could spend time with her….when we lived in Mallorca it meant the beach and great food…I have a post coming about the passage of time….chuq

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  8. Jellied eels for godsakes!! EEEEEK. 🤪. My Saturdays were spent at the pictures, Champion the Wonder Horse was my favourite, then ballroom dancing class, The Military two-step doesn’t get a look in on Strictly come dancing though! Nice reminiscences this morning Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, FR. I like to think of you doing the Military Two Step!
      I never liked jellied eels, but my parents loved them. Cheap food at the time, and very nutritious. They used to eat them with dry bread, so the small bones wouldn’t stick in their throat. But they would spit the larger bones out, which I always found too disgusting to watch. Different times. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Were those cream splits like doughnuts, Pete? My aunt tells a story of shopping in a baker’s and looking around with shock and embarrassment as my little cousin was at the window display, scooping out all the cream from the doughnuts with his finger.
    You didn’t mention Saturday morning pictures, Pete! Or Flicks as they were known to us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cream splits were divided doughnuts, with a line of red jam covering the fake cream. Delicious!
      I did go to Saturday morning pictures for a while, but after the period mentioned here. I had to be old enough to take the 202 bus to New Cross on my own,, where they showed them in a cinema called ‘The Kinema’. To be honest, I preferred to go to the cinema with my parents, as the cacophony of noise from the other kids on Saturdays ruined the films and serials for me. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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