Monday, 16 May 2011

Nostalgia not being what it used to be................

Since I mentioned school dinners during the Piccalilli episode (haven't eaten cauliflower for some time now) I have been in nostalgia mode.

This particular bit of nostalgia came about because I was musing on my usual occupation which is how to make a living for myself and still stay sane and happy.  One of the ideas in my book of ideas is to have a soup stall in the high street during the winter. I love love love making soup and it nearly always goes right.  So I thought a stall selling 3 or 4 different kinds of warming, natural, healthy homemade soup

with a variety of homemade breads

(ok the bread still needs a bit of work

but I'm getting there)

would be a lovely way to earn a living.  

Of course the fact I don't have a kitchen that would make a health and safety inspector smile (being as it is over 30 yrs old and the landlord refuses to do anything about it and don't start me on the landlord!!) might be an issue.  But it is not unsolvable if I could find an alternative venue in which to cook.  But there is another issue - I don't drive.  So I need a business partner.  One who can drive.  And this is proving to be a bit of a difficult one.  Still you never know - maybe....out there somewhere.....

Then of course what would I do with the stall in the summer. But I am sure I can come up with a summer  idea (in fact I have one bubbling away) so don't anyone go and steal it.  The soup idea that is, I haven't told you the summer idea and without it you can't do anything.

And so one thought led to another, as it does, and my mind drifted back to my childhood and teenage years living in 'the village'. 

My parents move to Kent when I was eleven involved taking us away from a nomadic life of living in a series of small Surrey and Sussex towns with amenities like buses, libraries, people, parks, shops, guides, brownies, decent schools and cinemas and depositing us, permanently,  in a very small  village with no amenities and a barely there bus service with which to take you to civilisation  (civilisation only existing between the hours of 10 and 4 apparently)  and thus to a library which was my life's blood when young - I couldn't believe there wasn't a library in this place - how was I to survive.  It was a big big shock to my system.

As my CV states I am adaptable and flexible so, not being in a position to do anything about it - I was always too scared to runaway -  I coped and tried to make the best of it.  Well, I endured it albeit not very silently until I left home at 19.  This  was young to go in those days unless you were off to university or to join the forces which was the usual method of escape from 'the village' and neither of which I was doing. Once I left it became a nice place to visit (in between the people, shopping,  parties and social life I was catching up on) as long as I didn't stay too long, like more than 2 hours (joke - I loved seeing my family and was happy to stay for 4 hours being as the buses only ran every 2 hours).  Fortunately none of my family live in 'the village' any longer and so I don't have to visit. 

The village life of my former years is not something I usually dwell on but I remembered not long after we moved there the village shops began closing down.  The baker went, one of the three grocery shops became a restaurant (and it was the one where I used to buy my Fab ice lollies while waiting for the school bus in the morning so I was not best pleased), then another closed down leaving just the not overly well stocked corner shop. The bank became an antiques shop and eventually the greengrocers closed.  To this day only the butchers and the corner shop remain.  My parents, being the proud owners of 5 children who needed regular feeding on a very tight budget, now had to invest in a refrigerator with an icebox (no-one we knew had a freezer)  and then had to spend money on petrol to drive once a week to the nearest town 15 miles away to shop in the supermarket.  It was not a happy experience,  for them or for me who, as the eldest,  had to babysit.  Also, supermarkets then were not the all encompassing purveyors of all your heart could desire that we now know.  There was just the one, it wasn't that big and so there wasn't much choice and being the only one it was also horrendously busy.

Then came the vans.

Once the village shops started closing down enterprising people with vans started coming round.  Twice a week the bread van came laden with squidgy, soft, yeasty bloomers, crispy topped bridge rolls, crusty cottage loaves all begging to be smothered  with soft, yellow, creamy butter and consumed with delightful relish.  There were also long  finger buns topped with soft, shiny, sticky pink or white icing that could be licked off with the tip of your tongue.   The best way to do this was to eat the bun from underneath so that all you had left was the top of the bun with the icing on otherwise after the joy of licking off the icing you then had to eat plain bun.  Nice, but not so much fun.

The fish van also came weekly with freshly caught fish.  It smelt of the sea and evoked memories of light glistening on water, warm pebbles, wet seaweed and woody, tarry upturned boats drying in the sun. 

Once a week the fish and chip van would park at the top of the road and the smell of the frying oil and vinegars would propel us out of the house to join the queue for an occasional fish and chip supper. The rest of the time we just sniffed the air and whined 'oh pleeease just some chips' usually to no avail. 

Every day in summer and once a week in  winter not one but two ice cream vans came round; Mr Whippy and Walls fought it out for our custom - I was a Walls soft scoopy girl myself and always, always with a flake.

Once a month the joy that was the Corona Soft Drinks lorry appeared and I could get my fix of limeade with sharp, pointy bubbles that burst on my tongue (and I still have my own teeth!!). 

These deliveries made life easier and cheaper for my parents (who were very good at not giving in to our constant badgering each time the ice cream vehicles  appeared) and I just loved the vans.  I loved the anticipation of their arrival, poking around in the back to see what they had got with them this time, helping Mum make my her choices,  watching her pay and then the pleasure of eating and/or cooking whatever had been chosen.  My Mum used to make us fish and chips the day the fish van came.  The fish was always a  lovely white colour, it would be thick and would just flake off the fork when eaten and if we were lucky she would coat it in her own homemade breadcrumbs.  I loved to help by dipping the fish firstly in egg and then the breadcrumbs ready for frying.

And so I spent a fanciful five minutes (or so) thinking wouldn't getting a little van (possibly purple or a luminous green or even better a bright, bright yellow),

and filling it with tasty homemade breads (yes, yes I know), delicious pretty cakes, buns and pastries, heartwarming soups, ready to heat homemade casseroles and pies, home grown vegetables and then driving  around the countryside delivering all these goodies to people be such a lovely way to earn a living.  And it would be so eco-friendly as well. 

But then of course reality set in.  In actual fact the vans didn't last all that long.  Life changed.  Supermarkets began appearing on every available spare piece of land.  People suddenly seemed to become more mobile, more women went out to work and how we lived underwent a change.  Now shopping online means supermarkets deliver to your kitchen and bespoke goods like beautiful cakes can be ordered over the interweb and delivered to your door as and when you want them. Not many people are around during the day any more so a daily delivery van is no longer an option. 

Perhaps I had better get back to the stall idea bearing in mind how many stalls and street markets we seem to get in the city centre and how popular they are in general.  Borough Market for example.

Stalls are the new delivery vans. 

I want one.


  1. We have a fish van that comes every six weeks here in this village!

  2. There's someone at our village station that has a van with a coffee maker on it and cakes ready for all of the commuters. Think of all of those stations that don't have a cafe. It's something I've considered.