Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back in Time with Victory Vs

I'd just dropped Olli off at work in York yesterday. I hadn't any idea of the way home so asked the satnav to take me.

After I'd driven about a mile or so, I saw a road sign. BECKFIELD LANE.

Instantly I knew where I was. I couldn't resist. I turned left and drove along the road.

After half a mile or so, suddenly, there it was.

A small pharmacist's shop.

The one that used to belong to the Communist, until he retired in 1985, when he was sixty-two.

That's the shop where he worked for over twenty years. That's the shop that provided for us all throughout much of my childhood and all my teenage years. That's the shop where I worked sometimes on Saturdays, and sometimes during the school holidays.

In those days there wasn't a ramp at the front. The little strip of grass on the left was full of flowers - I used to look after them and weed the garden when I went there to help the Communist. And in the summer, there were always swallows nesting above the door. I liked this, but the Communist didn't - he was always worried about their droppings falling on the customers' heads.

In those days it was - unusually - an off-licence too. My Dad wasn't much interested in alcohol. "It's just for selling."

That was his reply to a lot of things.

"Dad, what's this for?" I would ask about some new face cream or beauty aid.

"It's for selling," was his reply.

He knew almost all his customers. "When a customer comes in," he would say to his staff, "you stop doing whatever you're doing, and you serve them."

So, yesterday, in I went. One of the staff stopped what she was doing in order to serve me.

"Have you any glucose tablets, please?"

"Yes, I think so - - "

"And this was my Dad's shop."

Suddenly they were all listening, including the female pharmacist.

"What was his name?" she asked. "Was it Mr Blass?"

"Yes, that's him," I said.

"There's still a sign in the garage," she said. "Blass and Fisher Chemists."

I could instantly hear the Communist's deep voice, answering the phone.

"Blass and Fisher Chemists, Acomb."

The back part used to be the stockroom where I spent a long time tidying and checking things, and there were a couple of electric rings where the Communist would heat things up for lunch.

Now it's all been opened up and they have a much bigger area for dispensing.

"The Communist used to do all that in this little area here," I said, "and I used to stand here counting out tablets and eating Victory Vs."

Victory Vs were strong, flat sweets, brown in colour. I don't know what they tasted of really but I liked them. Only chemist shops sold them. They were one of the perks of my job, along with sticks of barley sugar, and, from time to time, fish and chips from the shop next door.

"You counted tablets by hand?" asked one of the assistants in astonishment.

"Yes, I did," I said. "I got good at counting to sixty or a hundred very quickly."

It took the assistant a while to find the glucose tablets, because she was new. And next to them on the shelf? Victory Vs. Amazing.

I bought some Victory Vs and drove home. With the scent of Chemist Shop and the taste of Victory Vs, the past felt so near I could almost touch it. It goes fast, this life thing, doesn't it?

6 Comments:

Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Wow! Victory V's! My mum often had them in her handbag. They were like little shaped pieces of sandstone but I loved the "hit" of the heat on my tongue. I haven't had one in many's the long year and now I'd like a quarter of them - even though they won't bring mum back or any of the years that have swept under the parapet of this bridge that I have been leaning on.

10:02 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

I hated Victory V's but I remember a shop on our way from school, kept by two very eccentric sisters. On day I was dared by a friend to go in and ask for half an ounce of Victory V's. Sadly, this was not well received by the sister serving at the time and she threatened that she would tell my parents. It says much about those innocent times that I felt it would be a good idea to confess all to my mum as soon as I got home, just in case the woman carried out her threat. ;)

10:06 pm  
Anonymous Shooting Parrots said...

Whenever something is described as lozenge-shaped, I think of Victory Vs. I used to love the flavour, not unlike Kerfoot Rock, although Vs get quite intense near the end!

They say you should never go back, but I think we should when given that rare opportunity.

8:54 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

How wonderful that you happened upon that road sign saying "BECKFIELD LANE"! We readers are the richer for it. Your post brought to mind the famous line from William Faulkner's Requiem For A Nun: "The past isn't dead. It's not even past."

12:41 pm  
Blogger Debby said...

What a lovely, nostalgic post. I enjoyed it very much.

12:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How could you resist putting the sign in your car and bringing it home?
Lucy

7:44 pm  

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