Monday, November 27, 2006

Friday December 23rd 1932

Up at 6am. Usual pre-dawn breakfast. Walked to the shop. Quite dark. A star and the new moon shining.

Trade brisk but not unusually so. Half an hour allowed for lunch. Fried sausages and bacon - provided by Mrs Wood - cooked on the gas ring in the cellar, whilst others watched with envy. During a lull, most of us were together, eating, smoking or working. Mac said thoughtfully, 'This is about the last time we shall all be together'. We became silent for a while then. They are decent fellows really, all human beings.

Between shop and cellar in the afternoon. A short tea interval - no time to go out. Shop closed at 9pm and then we began work of preparation. Mr Lanning - also human and driven like all of us - brought us a roll each and we had a cup of tea - except Langley, who was not quite quick enough.

Left at midnight and walked home. Bed at 1am. As we stumbled wearily out of the shop, Mr Lanning had cried, 'Don't come creeping in tomorrow at 8 o'clock - Seven!'

(Ref hygiene. There was no lavatory on the premises. If one needed to relieve oneself during the long day it was necessary to ask permission to leave the shop and go to the public lavatory, some 200 yards away. Permission was given most reluctantly and it was not wise to go twice in the same day. However, there was any empty property next door and it had a sloping roof which could be ascended from our small back yard. Eventually someone prised open the back bedroom window above the sloping roof and it was found that the room beyond had a hand basin. So this was very useful for pissing, and the room was handy for a quick smoke too. There was no water in the basin and the sink was partly blocked, so it was not very sanitary!)

Thursday December 22nd 1932

Another hard day. Worked until 10 pm. Had my dinner in the Cellar. Fried sausages and bacon on the gas ring. Enough butter done to last until Christmas. ('Done' means that the 56 lb. blocks had been beaten into reasonable softness and cut and shaped into one pound half globes. Each piece was then patterned by pressing on a sort of wooden die. Then all were loaded on a tray and taken up the shaft to the shop. The tray held, usually, 72 pounds of butter. It was rather difficult to carry up the ladder of the shaft. The forearms would be horizontal under the tray with the elbows locked into the hips. I have not described the operation very well!)

Drama in the shop, where I was serving, Woollerton, hurrying past the counter, touched the displayed bacon with his apron and some slices fell on the floor. Mr. Lanning noticed and called,
'Woollerton! Go and get your cards!' To the embarrassment of customers and indeed all of us, big Woollerton burst into tears, right there in the shop. 'Please sir, no' he sobbed, 'Give me another chance. My wife is expecting a baby. Please, sir'. After a terrible silence, Mr Lanning accepted the plea and snapped, 'Alright then, you big baby. Get back to work'.

There is a rumour that many of us will be sacked after the Christmas rush is over. 'Let's wait until tomorrow' says the song. I wait with dread.

(Woollerton was a big man and a bully. All of us except MacTavish were afraid of him. However after we saw him cry in public he never tried to bully anyone again. We had all seen His shame and were no longer afraid).