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by Margaret Renwick

A grey winter afternoon, jostled by stout housewives seeking last minute bargains. The second hand stalls packing up, owners wearing most of the stock to keep warm. The latecomers burrowing into the piles of elbowless woolly jumpers, buttonless trousers, featherless hats and shabby coats. Jumpers could be unravelled and the wool washed and re used, coats could be unpicked and turned to a new side. Every home had a button box and hats could be trimmed again with a scrap of lace, a brooch or a few silk flowers. You could dress like royalty for half a crown. No good being poor and looking poor!

Over to the grocery stalls as the pressure lamps were lit, the hypnotic hissing and stark yellow light creating a magical mood. Slaters stall was favourite and tins and packets were piled into large bags as bargains and scandal were passed around in equal measure by the sturdy shoppers.

The last call was to the fruit and veg stall, the sweet earthy smell of the crushed fruit as the Sunday greens were bought and filled a string bag. Home on the hot steamy trolley bus packed with weary women. A tin of Cambells tomato soup and the wireless on in front of the coal fire, perhaps a bit of toast made with a toasting fork, thick Danish butter and home made strawberry jam.

Into bed with a stone hot water bottle wrapped in an old woollen sock. Bedroom ceiling lit by sparks and flashes as the trolleys came away from the wires at Chi corner. Conductors cheery curses as they fished them back with a long bamboo pole kept on the side of the bus for that purpose.


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