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By Margaret Renwick

Sometimes as a special treat, Grandma and I would go downstreet for our lunch. Eating out in a cafe in 1950 was a rare event, there were very few places that were considered suitable. Hart's Cafe in Mile End Rd, just opposite the railway station was one. Their steak pies had a heart shaped piece of pastry on the top. We did not go there when they had the dead whale on exhibition across the road as I suppose the smell would have put us off our pies.

The very best place was the cafe in Binns on the top floor. This was a real experience. Getting off the bus at the bottom of Fowler St and walking past the lady in the invisible menders, she sat in the window to catch the light, mending silk stockings all day. She wasn't very invisible, I could see her! Past the imposing red brick post office opposite the police station in Kepple St and into Binns. The biggest poshest shop in Shields. Through the real leather gloves and handbags, the smell of Phul Nana and Evening in Paris from the perfume counter combining with the gloves to produce the aroma of luxury

Into the lift with the attendant to open and close the metal door with a clang. Up to the top floor, white marble counter, silver and chrome, waitresses in black uniforms with white lacy aprons and caps. I was always allowed my favourite meal, egg and chips. I had to be very careful and not drop the heavy silver knife and fork and eat everything up without dropping yolk on my best dress. Gran would have a silver pot of tea, milk for me, no coke then. Sixpence tip for the waitress and we thought we were grand.



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