IT would be mid-November when we would be got from school and she would bring us to get something for the dinner. You knew when she saw the turnips that we would be going to the pork shop. She got the pork chops with a bit of kidney in them. They were gorgeous with turnip. With them tucked into the bottom of the pram we went towards the dome of delights.
I loved the hardware shop. Even the smell of it. A combination of leather from the straps, wood from the brooms we called twigs, and the different oils used to cut the keys and sharpen the knives. And there was everything in there. From the shelves that needed ladders to get near anything, to the floor filled with so many items from silver bins to cast iron fire buckets. My mam had to leave the pram outside.
“Ah, you will want sugar soap, isn’t it that time again already, Mrs Murphy?” My mother was only in her early 20s and had had me when she was 16, so she was normally called by her first name by older people. But not in the hardware shop, whose owner Mr Finnegan treated everyone who walked through the door like an Egyptian princess purchasing emeralds.
he has santibodies https://t.co/rE9MIx0Rkf— Natalie Pavlatos (@npavlatos) November 20, 2020
For five minutes in his shop you weren’t the cleaner getting blackener for the fireplace, you were treated with respect, and your two and half pence was as valued as every other customer pushing that door with its tinkling bell open.
“Yes, indeed Mr Finnegan. Start at the top and work your way down and I might have it done by Christmas Eve.”
“Mrs Murphy, haven’t you great help with a girl like that?” Mr Finnegan was speaking to my mother but looking at me smiling. With the promise of pork with kidney and turnip, and now being recognised as important and a great help, I blushed and felt warm inside.
“And will you need some Jeyes fluid before the coal comes?” Mr Finnegan was not pushing another sale. He knew exactly what was happening.
Sugar soap, a scrubbing brush and a big cloth were required to clean the house from top to bottom for Christmas. Every inch of the house would be cleaned, including the net curtains which steeped overnight. While cakes, mincemeat and puddings sat macerating in the cupboard, this was the stage of preparation that took the place of spending.
There was no money for a big delivery of coal yet. The fires were small and kept in with slack. In mid-December with any luck there might be a chance to get the coalman to call with his heavy horse-drawn lorry. But not yet. Mr Finnegan made an opportunity from want and said it was the best time of the year to scrub the yard, “while everything is being cleaned anyway”. It eased the weeks ahead and meant no judgment for the poverty everyone lived in.
While my mother put the brown paper-wrapped purchases into the pram outside, Mr Finnegan winked and said: “Santy will have no trouble finding your house it will be so sparkling.” I blushed again and thanked him. My mother and I walked away after buying sugar soap and Jeyes Fluid from Mr Finnegan’s hardware shop both feeling like royalty.