Brown’s fish shop
At the Church Street end of Gerrard’s Court was a dirty old fish shop called Brown’s where they also sold coal in small quantities to those who could not afford a whole hundredweight. From the shop came a tantalising smell of kippers and wet coal sacks, and I could never make up my mind whether I liked or loathed it.
Chucking out time
At the King Street end of the court was a tiny one-bar pub called The Flying Scud, where the people of the court drowned their sorrows. Delivering the Evening Argus to that bar was another of my childhood traumas. There were five pubs in the two hundred yards which was King Street. As kids we well knew what ‘chucking out time’ meant. Usually it consisted of shouting and singing, and endless arguments and fights on the doorstep of each pub.
Brushing up the spuds
The area of Church Street which ran across the top end of King Street is worth a mention. On one corner was a greengrocers; the owner was a placid man called Mr Coombes, who occasionally paid me one and a halfpenny an hour to rub the shoots off old potatoes to make them more saleable. Above him was Hill’s the butchers who also paid me occasionally to do deliveries. On one April Fools’ day, Mr Hill sent me to another butcher in Gardner Street to get a dozen ‘straight’ hooks. Above Hill’s was Bert Simmonds’ newsagents, where I did a paper round when I was 14-15. Bert was always drunk on Christmas Eve and the size of my Christmas Box varied with the degree of his intoxication.
The wrong soap
On the other corner was originally a grocers and later a cycle shop. I was sent to the grocer one day for a bar of soap called Perseverance but by the time I got to the shop, I could not remember such a long word so I bought Sunlight which everyone knew. When I took it home it did not go down very well. Below Waters newsagent in Church Street was Andrews, the posh fish shop with gleaming white tiles, but we mostly went to Brown’s next door because it was cheaper. The Andrews were a very kind and friendly family.