We went into town this morning to the furniture shop to get me a high stool for my shed...the workbench is about waist height so an ordinary chair is far too low. Michael had some which were ultra modern...all chrome and shiny seats, that I turned my nose up at, but also some plain wooden ones with a back...so I bought one of those.
He had a heap of tatty envelopes with what were obviously old photos inside near the till and I asked about them...they belong to the shop next door which was once a chemist...he used to take photos for people and many were never collected. His widow asked Michael would he like to look through them to see if there was anyone he used to know and pass those he recognised on.
The old lady is now in a home suffering from the last stages of Alzheimer's and I think it'd pricked M's conscience a bit that he's only now beginning to search through this huge pile of old pictures. There are boxfuls still in the shop which he hasn't even opened yet.
I expect there are all manner of interesting bits and pieces in that shop...I'd love to have a root about, especially if the little wooden drawers which once held the pills and powders are still in situ...and there's no reason to think they wouldn't be.
After Dad died and Mum decided to sell the shop and fittings there was something of an undignified scramble among the local antique dealers because they all wanted the drawers...each one still had the original label written in careful italics, in Latin of course...the till was one of those elaborate affairs with a drawer that shot closed and nearly took your fingers off...like the one in the television programme Open All Hours. On a high shelf, which went right around the shop, was a collection of those big glass bottles...they must have a proper name...the sort that tapered towards the top...there were blue and red ones and they hadn't been dusted for donkeys years...
In the back, up some wooden steps, was Dad's office. And here was the ultimate prize as far as the dealers and buyers were concerned...an enormous roll-top desk and a matching swivel chair...I swear those men dribbled when they saw that. There was a small comfy chair as well for customers who 'wanted a quiet word, if I may'...and an open fire.
It took Mum and myself an entire afternoon to just clear the desk...every pigeon hole was crammed with bills and receipts...some dated back over fifty years. The drawers were stuffed with writing paper and calendars from drug companies and bottles of Quink ink which had gone hard at the bottom...there were samples of lipsticks from Coty and sachets of shampoo that'd leaked and men's sensible combs held together in a bundle with a rubber band.
Right at the bottom, in the last drawer, was the Poisons Book and a selection of paper packets of arsenic. You could have bought an ounce or a couple of grams...
We asked our antique dealer friend to value everything properly knowing he'd do so...then some items were sold separately before the shop was...
Mum went on holidays for the first time in her life...she went with the church group to Bethlehem and the following year to see the Passion Play in Austria...then she came to stay with Himself and me for many years, always travelling by train with her little Dachshund tucked under her arm.
The shop was bought by a young man who totally re-modelled the interior...the open fire was replaced by a modern heater...the till was one of the very latest electronic models...and the shelves were filled with cosmetics and 'gift ideas'...he put condoms on clear display so you could help yourself rather than shuffle your feet and ask to 'see the gentleman please'...and he began to stock several different colours of Andrex toilet tissue rather than the plain white Dad always had...he used to tell customers the pink paper would give them piles.
Heaven knows what the new owner did with the cellar/storeroom...Dad used to ask me to tidy up a bit, but I never quite knew where to begin...the shelves were actually bent in the middles from the weight of ancient bottles of cough syrup and boxes of perfume samples which had been there so long they'd dried up...there was even a skeleton hanging up by a bit of string in one corner...it wasn't all one person though...it was comprised of bits of different people.
I looked on Google Earth one day to see if the chemist shop is still there...but it's a florists shop now.