I suppose it's because I have so much time on my hands these days, that all these memories come flooding back to me.
One Winter's Morning
It was just another cold winter's morning as I came down the stairs and entered our large but cosy kitchen, and I put my boots into the warming oven of the AGA. It was the AGA that made our kitchen so cosy, as it was on all the time and was the centre focal point of the whole house. It was fuelled with coke, and was an absolute brute of a thing to light if we ever allowed it to go out. This was more prominent in the cooker side of it, as it used anthracite and my Dad used to say it was like trying to light a BBQ at the bottom of a four-inch pipe. The boiler side which heated all the water was fuelled with coke, but once it was going, we used to burn everything that would burn in it, including potato peelings. This meant that we hardly threw anything out into our bin at all. The reason we burnt these peelings in it, was that it would stay lit all night, and just needed a poke before adding more coke in it every morning, which of course was my job, seeing as I was the first person up every morning. The doors on the boiler front had these small windows where you could see the fire burning away inside, and a few of these windows were missing, which allowed some of the heat to waft out, leaving you feeling really cosy if you stood near it.
So I suppose it would be very environmentally friendly in today's scheme of things. On one occasion, when our dog had puppies, the runt of the litter was really close to deaths door, so my Dad put it into the holding oven of the AGA for a few minutes, and believe it or not, the puppy was revived and got a lot better. So much so, that he was the one I picked out from the litter to stay with us, while the rest were given away, as my parents said that we could only keep one. That very dog, which I called Butch, grew up with me, and he was a strong, healthy animal throughout his life, even though he never ate a tin of dog food in his entire life. He used to be fed on scraps of food, left over by the customers who ate in the cafe that my parents ran. The rest of any discarded food used to be taken to a local pig farm, where one of our regular customers of the cafe used to work.
So, I placed my boots in that oven, just to give them a heat before I made my way down the street to collect the dozen rolls we needed every day for the lodgers' breakfasts. It was around 05.30am when I set out the back door to make my way to the baker's, as I had to be at the paper shop by 06.00am, to start making up my papers for my newspaper round which I did every weekday, then again on Sunday mornings.
Much to my surprise, I could not get out of the back door, as the snow that had been falling all night, had been blown by the wind into the small "L" shaped corner where the back door was situated. It was up to my head in height, leaving a gap of around one foot at the top where I could see the dark sky above. So I knew it would take me a while to shovel my way trough it, so I made my way to the living room window, and managed to climb out of that, as the snow was only about three feet deep at that point. I tried to hurry to make my way down to the bottom of our street to the baker's shop, as I knew there was no way I would be using my bicycle that day as the snow was too deep, and it would take me a lot longer to complete my paper round; and I wanted to get to the newspaper shop a bit earlier to make up my papers. There was no way I could get there any faster, as with it being so early in the morning, I was one of the first people walking through it, so I had no footsteps to follow. I will always remember that lovely smell that used to greet me as I made my round to the back door of that baker's shop. The heat used to come blasting out at me as I entered through the double door, and I always met one of the bakers standing there, as he used to have a smoke at the back door every morning around the same time as I arrived. There was always a friendly welcome for me there, and they always asked how everyone was. I felt privileged to be able to see the bakery part of the shop, and not just the shop at the other side of the counter.
When I got back from the baker's with the rolls, I just had time for a quick cup of tea before making my way up to the paper shop, which was at he top of our street, so I never had far to walk. To make matters worse, one of the main papers for that day had not arrived, so even after arriving early, hoping to get a quick start, I had to wait for that paper to arrive. We found out later that it was the train which took it through from Aberdeen, that was late due to the snowstorm. So as soon as the taxi arrived at the shop door with the late papers, we all grabbed the amount we needed and set off on our round.
There was no way that I could have used my bicycle that day, as the snow was far too deep, which also made it difficult to do even on foot.
By the time I had finished my round that morning I only had time to change out of my soaking wet clothes, have another cup of tea and a roll, then I had to rush to school as I was really late that day. We never thought much about it at the time, after all we were paid one pound a week for delivering those papers five mornings a week, but on Sunday mornings all the customers had to pay for their Sunday papers as we delivered them. Some of the customers used to give us good tips, but what always amazed me was the fact that it was the folk on the council estates that used to give us the big tips, and not the so-called rich folk who lived in the posh part of town.
Looking back on it now, we never even thought of taking a 'sickie' or a day off, it was just that in those days we had a sense of duty and pride, and still carried on, regardless of the weather. What made that particular day a bit special, was the fact that it was my birthday, the 24 May, and I was thirteen years old and had been doing that paper round for over a year!
It's quite unusual really, as we never see snow at that time of the year these days.