Life observations

A small collection of observations and comments that have made me smile, some are mine, but most are ones I’ve gleaned from Twitter and Facebook:


I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

I smile because I don’t know what the hell is going on.

I don’t have a solution but I do admire the problem.

Two rules to live by: First, look out for #1. Second, don’t step in #2.

My genetic insanity is very fit and healthy; it runs in the family.

I finally got my head together, but now my body’s falling apart.

I don’t have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; I’m just multi-tasking.

I’m not a complete idiot; some parts are missing.

Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defence.

Some mistakes are far too much fun to only make once.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you needed it.

Don’t take life too seriously; no one gets out alive.

I don’t suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

People are jealous because the voices only talk to me.

Make something idiot-proof and someone will make a better idiot.

Everybody repeat after me: “We are all individuals”.

He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead.

I want patience AND I WANT IT NOW!!!!

The trouble with life is there’s no background music.

My doctor just told me that I’m colour blind; that was right out of the orange.

Being over the hill is much better than being under it.

It’s hard to make a comeback when you haven’t been anywhere.

A closed mouth gathers no foot.

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.

If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

Hard work never killed anyone, but why chance it?

Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.

I’d like to have more self-esteem, but I don’t deserve it.

Don’t marry a tennis player; love means nothing to them.

My inferiority complex isn’t as good as everyone else’s.

Smokers are the same as everyone else; just not as long.

I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.

Good health is just the slowest possible rate at which you can die.

Think outside the box; it’s too late once you’re in it.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, if you throw it hard enough.

Always remember that you are unique; just like everyone else.


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Puns and word-play


A little initial letter alliteration

I have a habit of playing around with alliteration, or something like it; mostly in less than 140 characters for Twitter of course. Probably pointless, but on the other hand it makes me smirk:

Atrocious alliteration alludes actual alternative action and, after assiduously able allocation, allegedly always acts appallingly.

Boston’s burgeoning business buildings busily beckon big bucks beneath bold bright boundless blue.

Fifty finely fraught flighty fellows from Frome fighting through the fort thought the fiery Friday freight was thoroughly frightful.

Forever fastidiously finding fashionable far-fetched fascinatingly frivolous facts for fervently frequent free farcical fun.

Four famous flighty folks flee fittingly from fermented forest florets foraging for fast feisty fromage faking faulty faucets.

Many monogamously married monotheistic mongooses make marvellously magnificent mahogany marionettes.

Most mid mornings many Maine motorists might move majestically; maybe meaning most match my main moaning mood?

Pecks previously pummelled past prior parallel periods patiently prepared; patently perhaps (probably?) partially prompting Peter Piper picking pickled pepper pecks?

Percent, per cent, purse sent, poor cent, pour cent, pour scent, paw scent, purr scent, percent.

Pluck Kate, pluck hate, placate, plaque eight, plaque ate, plaque hate.

Precisely! Poetic puns pose perfectly peculiar problems; perhaps particularly post peeling pernickety prickly pear pairs.

Pre pouring plausibly poor potpourri perpendicularly, paternal Pa’s pores probably proved perfectly pedicured, perhaps predictably.

Problematic philately produces portable philanthropic potato pestilence, probably propagating perfectly plausible practical pomegranates.

Read Tweet. Right wheat, rate trait, right to eat, raid treat; right sweet! Ride tight, right trite… retreat. Re Tweet.

Semantics; should speak several sentences, starting slowly, sauntering swifter, suddenly speedier; system seems successful.

Several saucily selected sources say she said she saw salty seasoning sauce successfully shaken.

Significantly stunning sunny spell suggests spring’s suddenly successfully sprung; certainly seems seasonally standard

Simultaneously selling several swimming sole shoals, skilled soldier Saul slowly shouldered sad sibling Sarah’s shabbily sewn shawl.

Stylish successful single swan swimming ceaselessly in successively smaller circles.

Taking their tray tied to two Thai trees, they too try three times to tread there, teetering through thin tattered tightly twisting trunks.

Tweet. To eat. Too eat. Two eat. Two wheat. Two ate. To wait. Two eight. To hate. Too weight. To wait. Trait. Treat. Tweet.

Messing about with Google Translate also shouldn’t amuse me, but it does:

Four famous flighty folks flee fittingly from fermented forest florets foraging for fast feisty fromage faking faulty faucets.

Google translated to French:

Quatre gens volages célèbre fuir dignement de la forêt fermenté fleurons d’alimentation pour fromage feisty rapide semblant robinets défectueux.

Google translated back to English:

Four people escape with dignity fickle famous forest fermented food landmarks cheese for quick feisty pretend defective valves.

Atrocious alliteration alludes actual alternative action and, after assiduously able allocation, allegedly always acts appallingly.

Google translated to Vietnamese:

Tàn bạo ám chỉ điệp âm thay thế và hành động thực tế, sau khi giao có thể siêng năng, được cho là luôn hành động đáng kinh sợ.

Google translated back to English:

Referring to the brutal and alliteration replace real action, after sex can diligently, are thought to always act appallingly.

Precisely! Poetic puns pose perfectly peculiar problems; perhaps particularly post peeling pernickety prickly pear pairs.

Google translated to Ukranian:

Отож-бо! Поетичний каламбури представляють зовсім своєрідні проблеми, може бути, особливо після пілінгу вибагливих колючий пар груші.

Google translated back to English:

So-bo! Poetic puns represent quite peculiar problems can be, especially after peeling demanding barbed steam pears.

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Puns and word-play


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Nottingham YMCA Fencing Club

The Nottingham YMCA has been serving the city since 1871 and has just set up a 140th Anniversary website. I fenced at the YMCA in the 1970s, so I uploaded a short article and photograph to the site (no longer there).

Having moved to Nottingham in 1974 to work, I took up fencing the following year at night school and fenced at the YMCA fencing club between 1976 and sometime around 1981. I would never have made a great fencer, but really enjoyed the sport and the great group of people in the club at the time.

The social side of the club was brilliant; we fenced at other local clubs and in competitions and held quite a few social events and trips. Normally the fencing took place on Friday evenings and we usually went over to The Dolphin pub on North Church Street for a drink afterwards. The Dolphin is no longer there, having been demolished to make way for shops and a car park.

Geoff Dawson was our fencing coach during this period; Geoff is shown (with glasses and moustache) in the centre of this photograph of twelve of the club members, taken in June 1979.

Memories of the club are particularly poignant for me, as I met my wonderful partner and wife Sue there. Sue is next to Geoff Dawson in the photograph, with her hand on her elbow. I’m standing on the far left of the picture (curly hair and glasses) having just dashed back to the line up after setting the camera’s shutter delay.

Nottingham YMCA Fencing Club (June 1979)
Nottingham YMCA Fencing Club (June 1979)

White van rant… okay; mumbling semi-rant

I just commented on someone’s blog post about drivers of white vans, which is unusual for me, so I thought I might as well add it to my ramblings on here for a change:

While I was regularly catching the bus into the city centre a few months back, I couldn’t help noticing the relatively dangerous activities of passing drivers, particularly drivers of white vans; although what I really don’t understand is why is it so prevalently white vans? Rationally it can’t be all drivers of white vans; perhaps you notice white vans more because they’re bright?

Anyway, bearing in mind that the bus stop is just after a very sharp blind bend in the road, I regularly observed ‘White Van Man’ swerving around the corner reading newspapers and talking on their mobile phones.

Even worse, some were simultaneously drinking from coffee mugs or from cans, lighting cigarettes and even counting money from a wallet while STEERING WITH THEIR ELBOWS.

I saw one man steering with the left hand and holding an unsecured cupboard onto the roof through the window with the right hand.

Senseless! How can they not consider risk and consequence?

Hmm… I don’t often rant, I just mumble or grumble, but, even though this semi-rant was moderate and unexpletive, it was also quite therapeutic. Perish the thought of me even attempting to make a serious comment, but I might try it again sometime.


Some (more) favourite quotes


Some (more) favourite quotes“Do all that you can, with all that you have, in the time that you have, in the place where you are” ~ Nkosi Johnson (1989-2001)

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” ~ John Lennon

“Press freedom / some authorities are confused by the two meanings of press” ~ Loesje

“That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” ~ J S Mill

“Trust provides security / fences don’t” ~ Loesje

“Don’t follow your dreams; chase them” ~ Richard Dumb

“There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency” ~ Jonathan Swift

“Le doute n’est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde” ~ Voltaire

“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept” ~ Bill Watterson

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy” ~ Henry Ford

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world” ~ The Buddha Dhammapada

“The things that come to those that wait may be the things left by those that got there first” ~ Steven Tyler

“Ask yourself this question: Will this matter a year from now?” ~ Richard Carlson

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…” ~ John Milton (Paradise Lost)

“The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth” ~ Gerald Burrill

“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it” ~ Andre Gide

“Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything’s different” ~ Bill Watterson

“The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us” ~ Bill Watterson

“Being brave / Lets no one off the grave / Death is no different whined at than withstood” ~ from Aubade by Philip Larkin

“Life on earth is expensive / but it includes a free trip around the sun” ~ Loesje

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed” ~ Mark Twain

“I liked things better when I didn’t understand them” ~ Bill Watterson

“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you are the world” ~ Anonymous

“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get” ~ Ingrid Bergman

“Pay attention. And keep breathing” ~ Terence McKenna

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“Eschew the ordinary, disdain the commonplace” ~ Chuck Jones

“If you have a single minded need for something, let it be the unusual, the esoteric, the bizarre, the unexpected” ~ Chuck Jones

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough. Without ever having felt sorry for itself” ~ D H Lawrence

“We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow; Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so” ~ Alexander Pope

“It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich” ~ Alan Alda

“If adventure doesn’t wait on the doorstep / climb out through the window” ~ Loesje

“The best number for a dinner party is two – myself and a damn’ good head waiter” ~ Nubar Gulbenkian

“The truth / which one of the three versions do you want to hear” ~ Loesje

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us” ~ Helen Keller

“Nobody really cares if you’re miserable, so you might as well be happy” ~ Cynthia Nelms

“An apostrophe is the difference between a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it’s shit.” ~ Sam Tanner

“Life is short, eat dessert first” ~ variously credited to Mark Twain, Ogden Nash, Ernestine Ulmer, Sue Ellen Cooper and Jacques Torres

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Puns and word-play


Nottingham colloquial translations to regular English

Nottingham's Council House and Old Market Square
Nottingham’s Council House and Old Market Square

When I moved to Nottingham in the 1970s I made these annotations on a selection of typical phrases used by local colleagues and neighbours.

Some of these idioms have almost vanished from daily use in the last few decades, although you still hear similar phrases in some Nottingham neighbourhoods and in older generations of local people.

A few younger Nottingham residents now have an inflection of ‘Estuary English‘; a euphemism for a mild version of the London and South East accent, which has flourished for hundreds of miles outside of London.




Ay-up Hello
Ay-up miduk Hello (usually, but not exclusively, to a female)
Ay-up yooth Hello (usually to a young male)
Ay-up duckeh Hello (to a female or child you’re particularly close to)
Ow ya gowin on then, Serri? How are you?
Ta-rar duk Goodbye / goodnight

General terms

Ar (or Aye) Yes
Knee-ow No
Smornin This morning
Safto This afternoon
Tahn Town / city centre
Twitchell / Jyitt-eh Alley or cut-through
Kawzi Pavement / footpath
Oss rowd Road
Oss / Bobbo Horse
Mazzgi Cat
Om Home
Ahse House
Bog Toilet
Gob Mouth
Tabz Ears
Tegs / Teggehs Teeth
Dinna / Snap Lunch or food
Cob Bap, barm cake, bun or roll
Just remember IT’S A COB!
Watter Water
Duddos / tuffeh Sweets
Sucka Ice lolly
Guzgog Gooseberry
Knobby greens Brussels sprouts
Taytuzz Potatoes
Code Cold
Ott Hot
Rammel Rubbish
Brahn Brown
Gizza Give me / let me have
Gozz To see / look
Dob dahn To duck or hide
Blubber / blubbering Crying or weeping
Prattin abaht Acting stupidly
Pawleh / badleh Unwell
Frit Frightened
Clammin Hungry
Mard-eh Grumpy, miserable or sulking
Mank-eh Dirty / scruffy, or sometimes silly
Suck-eh Someone of questionable intelligence (a bit thick)
Batch-eh Insane / crazy
Snided / snided out Busy or crowded
Puther / puthering Pouring or gushing; water, rain or smoke
Nesh Unusually susceptible to cold weather
Kroggeh / croggie To give someone a lift on a bicycle crossbar
Ligger Liar
Chelp Back chat or insubordination
Ritt Wrote
Aht Out
Rahnd Round
Tah Thanks
Ennyrode Anyway
Owt Anything
Nowt Nothing
Summat Something
Therrint There isn’t
Tint It is not
Dint Did not
Yove You have
Sen Self
Mi-sen Myself
Yu-sen Yourself
Thi-sens Yourselves or themselves
Iz-sen His self
Im-sen Himself
Ussens Ourselves
Ahkidd My brother / sister

Queries and questions

Ahrode ay-yo? How old are you?
Aya gorra mardilippon? Are you sulking?
Aya gorra wi’ya? Have you got her (wife) with you?
Aya gorrim wi’ya? Have you got him (husband) with you?
Aya gorrowt? Have you any money?
Aya masht miduk? Have you made the tea yet?
Ezz ee sed owt? Did he say anything?
Gizzabitt Can I have some of your … ?
Jagadahn? Did you go to the Nottingham Forest / Notts County match?
Jo wonn-owt? Would you like anything?
Kannicum annorl? May I come too?
Oo worree wi? Who was he with?
Wair dya wekk? Where do you work?
Wairza booza? Where is the local pub?
Wi or wi’yaut? With or without?
Worree wee iz-sen? Was he alone?
Wotsupp? Is something wrong? / Is everything alright?
Wotyavin? What would you like to drink?
Wot yonn-wee? What are you doing?
Yerwott? I beg your pardon?

Statements and comments

Am goowin wi mi-sen I’m going alone / by myself
Annorl As well / Also
Av gorrit wimee I have it with me
Ay aint gorrowt I don’t have anything / any money
Ah dint do owt I didn’t do anything
Ah towd Imm eekud pleez iz-sen I told him the decision was his / he could please his self
Ah towdya an al telya namor I’ve told you and I’m not telling you again
Ah’ve gone an dottied mi’sen My hands are dirty
Ah’ve podged mi’sen I’ve eaten too much
Batt yu-sen dahn Dust yourself off
Bungitt ovvarear Pass it to me
Ee-yar Here you are (giving) / let me have that (taking)
E’ wants sum ossmuck inniz boots He’s not very tall
Gerra buzz dahn tahn Catch a bus into town
Gerrit dahn-ya Please eat it / drink it
Gerroff om It’s time you went home
Gerroff! Get off! (Please go away)
Gerroffahtonnit! Go away / leave it alone!
Gerron wee-it Get on with it (Please continue what you were saying)
Gerrum in then Buy me a drink
Gerrup, elsal bat ya tab Please get up or I’ll use violence
Gizza gozz Let me see
Gizza kroggeh / krog To ask for a lift on a bike
Gizzarfonitt Share and share alike
Innit code It’s cold today
Innit ott It’s hot today
It meks-ya tabz laff It has a sour or bitter taste
It-seh bit black ovva bilzmothaz It looks like rain
It’ul norrotcha It won’t hurt you
Izon Iz-ollidiz He’s on holiday
Justarkatit Listen to the rain
Mek it g’bakkuds Please reverse the car / vehicle
Owd yuh oss-uzz! Please wait / be patient! (Hold your horses!)
Shurrup, elsal bat ya tab Please be quiet or I’ll use violence
Shut ya gob! / Purra sock init Shut your mouth / Shut up!
Tabhangin Evesdropping
Thiz summat up wee im There is something wrong with him / He may be ill
Tin-tin-tin It is not in the tin
Wigorn tev uz dinnaz We’re about to have lunch
Yowl koppitt You’ll get into trouble

A Nottingham dialect joke ► Vet; “Is it a tom?” Cat owner; “Nah, av gorrit wimee.”

“Aah Ter Talk Notts” from LeftLion magazine

‘Nottingham Dialect and Sayings’ by Jimmy Notts and Nottingham Hidden History Team

For other information about Nottingham click here

MumblingNerd’s Nottingham destination print

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…cut into chunks, weighed and wrapped

Legion Stores, Birstall

Legion Stores, 13 Front Street, Birstall (c1954)
Legion Stores, 13 Front Street, Birstall (c1954)

We owned a small local shop in the 1950s; Legion Stores at 13 Front Street, in Birstall, just north of Leicester in the English East Midlands.

The shop was in the oldest part of Birstall, quite close to the River Soar and opposite the very old St. James Church; relics of a Saxon window were found during major restoration works in the 19th century. The peel of church bells always takes me back to childhood Sunday mornings, either in the old shop, or at number 5, an old cottage we’d later rented, just down the road.

For the first few years that we had the shop food was still rationed and Mum used to bone and slice the bacon and measure out all the rationed portions of cheese and meat.

Mum and Grandma did most of the serving in the shop because Grandad didn’t like working behind the counter; he didn’t have much patience and always said he couldn’t put up with the ‘chatting women’.

Nellie and Betty Manterfield serving in the shop (1954)
Nellie and Betty Manterfield serving in the shop (1954)

Almost everything had to be weighed and measured out by hand, hardly anything came pre-packed. Things like sugar came in big bags and were measured into small bags for the customer, bacon was sliced by hand and parcelled up, cheese, lard and butter had to be cut into chunks, weighed and wrapped.

In the kitchen at the back of the shop we had a small butter churn, like a small wooden barrel with a turning handle that we used to make our own butter. I don’t actually remember if we churned the butter that was sold in the shop, although I do remember my Mum and Grandma patting the measured chunks of butter into blocks with wooden paddles and wrapping them in paper.

Betty Manterfield in Legion Stores (c1950)
Betty Manterfield in Legion Stores (c1950)

Particular delights for me were the rows of jars full of sweets, unfortunately out of my reach. Something I could actually reach were the eggs, dozens of them in stacks of trays. My mother told me that one day I picked up some of the eggs and when she told me to put them down, I just dropped them on the floor. I bet the cane that she kept behind the bread board came out that time.

One of my favourite parts of the shop were the rows of little wooden drawers behind the counter and below the shelves of sweet jars, tins and jams. These drawers were full of various dry goods, such as salt, with small metal scoops used to measure the contents into bags. The drawer I liked most of all contained lots of button badges, these must have been given out by the suppliers, because I seem to remember them advertising things like Saxa salt.

The shop did steady business and just about paid its way for a few years, but self-serve food stores started to become popular in the 1950s, gradually turning into the chains of supermarkets that most of us buy our food from today.

5 Front Street, Birstall (c1955)
5 Front Street, Birstall (c1955)

By the late 1950s the old shop on Front Street wasn’t doing very well, loosing customers to the newer shops in the village at Sibson’s Corner, so when Mum and Dad moved in 1959, to a new house on a new estate off Greengate Lane, Grandma and Grandad Manterfield gave the shop up and moved into the old cottage that we’d rented at 5 Front Street.

So that was the end of our little retail experiment, but it left me with many happy memories of a quieter time in a small corner of a very old village.

If it smells okay and there are no unsightly slimy bits…

Betty, Dennis and Roy Manterfield by Legion Stores (1953)
Betty, Dennis and Roy Manterfield by Legion Stores (1953)
Nellie Manterfield in Legion Stores (c1950)
Nellie Manterfield in Legion Stores (c1950)

Twitter lists

My lists for some of the things I’m interested in

There are quite a few Twitter links for Nottingham people, places and organisations at the bottom of the page.

Click on the images to link to the lists.



Humour – Well, they amuse me anyway


National and international news

National and international news
National and international news

Twitter stuff – Applications and information

Twitter stuff
Twitter stuff

IT stuff – Web, software and applications

IT stuff
IT stuff

Quotations – Quote unquote

Twit-fiction – Writers of fiction, short stories and poetry

Fiction, short stories and poetry
Fiction, short stories and poetry


News and media tweets about Nottingham

Nottingham news
Nottingham news

Arts, culture and entertainment in Nottingham

Nottingham arts and culture
Nottingham arts and culture

Restaurants, cafes and pubs in Nottingham

Nottingham food and drink
Nottingham food and drink

Musicians, groups and music venues in Nottingham

Nottingham music and venues
Nottingham music and venues

Companies, business and commerce in Nottingham

Nottingham Commerce
Nottingham Commerce

Tweets from and about Nottingham City Council and partners

Nottingham City Council
Nottingham City Council

Organisations, groups and societies in Nottingham

Organisations in Nottingham
Organisations in Nottingham

Similar interests, different points of view

Pennsylvania Avenue and The Capitol, Washington (26 Oct 2009)
Pennsylvania Avenue and The Capitol, Washington (Oct 2009)

I know you shouldn’t generalise, but sometimes I think it might be possible to sum up politics in the United States of America as ‘similar interests, different points of view’.

Considering its length and breadth, of both land and of ideas and political extremes, the United States must have a remarkable political system to hold all of its people and states together.

I recently did a tour of the Capitol in Washington DC; an outstanding building and a fascinating tour, thanks to the tour guide Nick.

The Capitol and tour guide Nick (Oct 2009)
The Capitol and tour guide Nick (Oct 2009)

The tour takes you through some very interesting areas of the building and touches on some enthralling events in the history of the United States. This gives you an impression of the amazing range of views and ideas the diverse population encapsulates.

On the one hand, this diversity has culminated in horrendous events such as the Civil War and in the terrible treatment of indigenous people and African Americans for example, but it has also lead to astonishing technological, medical and social change, and enabled the United States to become strong enough to tip the balance of power in the Second World War and stop the relentless rise of fascist dictatorships in Europe and Asia.

Freedom Plaza, Washington (Oct 2009)
Freedom Plaza, Washington (Oct 2009)

For all its faults (and what system doesn’t have faults?) the political system in the United States must have some pretty sound ideas in its basic set up, because even with the extraordinary tension of people passionately pulling in different directions and the barely restrained corporate power of ‘big business’, most of the time it actually works for a significant majority of its people.

And how many countries and political systems across the world can truthfully say that?

Lincoln Memorial, Washington (Oct 2009)
Lincoln Memorial, Washington (Oct 2009)

If it smells okay and there are no unsightly slimy bits…

A conversation at work recently reminded me how differently we treat food these days, compared to fifty, or so, years ago.

Someone was sniffing and scrutinising the milk, prior to making a hot drink, and decided it was time to part company, because the milk wasn’t quite as fresh and youthful as it had been (I know the feeling) and it reminded me of how we stored and used milk before we had fridges.

(Gripping stuff, are you sure you don’t have anything better to do; clip your toenails, put the cat out?)

When I started to think back I was quite surprised at how much our shopping, cooking and eating habits have changed since the 1950s. In fact before long I might also use it as an excuse to blather on about the local stores that we had before supermarkets arrived on the scene.

(Incidentally, why is the cat on fire?)

Anyway, back to milk. Before the widespread appearance of supermarkets in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most people had fresh milk delivered daily and, without a fridge, it was kept in the coolest place in the kitchen, pantry or cellar. We sometimes also had bottles of sterilized milk, which kept longer unopened, but didn’t taste as good as the fresh stuff.

Fridges didn’t become very widespread in British homes until the 1960s and 70s, so milk was normally used the day it was delivered, but if it happened to hang around a little longer, particularly in hot weather, it would start turn a little too sour for regular use.

Now I don’t know about most families at the time, but ours didn’t often throw it out. We kept it in a cool place until it had thickened up; I think Mum used to mix something like a little lemon juice in to curdle it. Then it was poured (well, perhaps glopped would be a better description) onto a piece of muslin, which was gathered up with the ends tied together, then hung over a bowl to allow the liquid to drain off. Once it stopped dripping it had a consistency between cream cheese and cottage cheese and was ready for use. At some point it was mixed with salt to improve the flavour and keep it fresh for longer, but I can’t remember if the salt was added at the end or before it was strained through the muslin.

The storage and shelf life of fresh food has altered a lot; food didn’t have ‘sell by’ or ‘use by’ dates until the 1970s, and then it was a bit sporadic. We used to pick up and examine our food; if it smelled okay and there are no unsightly slimy bits, then we would just eat it. If the cheese had a bit of mould growing on the outside, we would cut a layer off. If the bread was getting stale it was made into bread pudding, stale cake was made into trifle and so on.

I’m loath to trot out the customary ‘it never did me any harm’, but I do think we waste too much food. It would be more practical to inspect our food carefully and cook it thoroughly and with care, instead of just chucking it out for what sometimes seems to be an arbitrary date that depends on too many variables to be completely accurate.

We used to store some fruit and vegetables for months. Onions, for example, were cleaned up and kept dry, tied together and hung from hooks in the shed. When we wanted one, it was pulled or snipped one from the bunch and with luck they would keep all winter, or even longer.

Apples, as long as they were fresh and undamaged, would keep for months stored in a cool, dark place with a good air circulation. Similarly, we stored clean, dry, undamaged potatoes for a long time in paper or hessian sacks kept in cool, dry and dark conditions.

Anyway, you get the idea, before this turns into an episode of Gardener’s Question Time.

Another pre-fridge piece of equipment we used was a meat safe fixed to the wall outside, on the north facing side of the house, to keep it cool and out of the sun. The meat safe was a small metal cupboard with mesh covered holes to allow air circulation, but keep flies and vermin out, and we kept dairy produce, joints of meat, sausages, dripping and potted meat in it, particularly in cooler months.

Legion Stores, 13 Front St, Birstall (early 1950s)
Legion Stores, 13 Front St, Birstall (early 1950s)

In an old village shop we once managed, we had a cool and damp cellar that often served as a fridge. Mum made a trifle for a party and stored it in the cellar; it may have been for my birthday, but I don’t remember that. What I do remember is that when she went down to collect the trifle, there was a large frog sitting, apparently quite comfortably, in the centre. I don’t think we ate the trifle, although Dad wasn’t so fussy and probably scooped out the contaminated bits and scoffed the rest.

Since I first owned a fridge, I don’t ever remember finding a frog in any desserts. Although I do know how to tell if there are elephants in the refrigerator…

More on Legion Stores …cut into chunks, weighed and wrapped