Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Incident in a Haberdashery Shop in 1959

In the Olden Days, when I was really very small, my grandmother and my mother always dressed up when they were going into town. Grandma in particular would always wear a hat and gloves. Three-quarter-length gloves were popular. Even my mother used to wear gloves. In the summer. At the age of 35. Bizarre, if you ask me.

One of my earliest memories is of being in town whilst my mother and my grandmother stood at the counter at some kind of haberdashery shop, buying such things as petticoats and sewing thread.

There was a row of ladies standing along the counter, all choosing such small and vital cloth items as handkerchiefs and doileys. If you had asked my three-year-old self how interesting I found this, I would have explained that it varied between not interesting at all and really very boring indeed.

They were all rather similarly dressed, in smart and longish skirts, but all I could see were their backs and their legs in their high-heeled shoes and stockings. I can picture that view now. Grandma's skirt was a respectable brown and my mother's a jolly turquoise.

After a while, I had had enough. To my three-year-old self, it seemed as though hundreds of years had passed since we entered the shop. So I tried to attract my mother's attention in what seemed to me to be an entirely reasonable "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" kind of way.

"Just wait a minute, Daphne. We won't be much longer."

I waited another hundred years or so then tried the "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" tack again.

"Daphne! Quiet! Be a good girl, now."

I had had enough. I was only three, and I was going to DIE OF BOREDOM before I reached four, and NOBODY CARED. I have never had much of a setting between apparently endless patience and suddenly blowing my top, and so it proved in this early demonstration. I went straight from Good Girl to Brat in the twinkling of an eye.

My mother and Grandma had taken their eyes off me, absorbed in the exciting vests and nightdresses.

I turned around and walked to the back of the shop, which was quite a long way for a three-year-old.

Then I saw my mother's turquoise-skirt-clad bottom ahead of me. I took a deep breath, then ran at full pelt the whole length of the shop and head-butted her in the behind, with as much force as I could muster.

I think it must have been quite a LOT of force, because the recipient of the blow tottered on her high heels and then crashed to the ground in front of me.

And it was at this moment that I realised that this lady was not my mother.

A lot of consternation and shock ensued and much explaining that it was very out of character and I was usually such a Good Girl.

And we left the shop. Hurrah! That's all I remember. But it has taken from then until today for me to understand why this interesting case of mistaken identity took place. Of course! I simply couldn't see very well. I would continue to blunder blindly through life until my short-sightedness was discovered during a school eye test eighteen months or so later.

"Just read the letters on the board, dear."

"What board?"

It can be hard work being little. And it doesn't always get easier when you're big.


Blogger Leslie Pedrick said...

You reminded me of our Haberdashery Shop in Hackney where the change hummed on wires.
The shop assistant would put the money in a wheeled canister on the wire then pull a lever, ping, off it went to the cashier. Moments later, ping, the canister would come back with the change and receipt.
There was also a cage for little three year old girls.

7:55 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

Well as you are clearly in a 'confessing' mood, Daffers, may I remind you that you did exactly the same thing to a poor, innocent French woman standing in the queue at the eatery of a motorway service station near Avignon last summer.

We struggled to translate your hypoglycemic attack into French so I just twirled my finger round the side of my head and the resulting "ahhhhhhh's" and looks of pity defused the situation and averted a nasty international incident.

And it got us to the front of the queue, win.

8:11 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

Sounds like the female version of 'Just William' Daphne! ;)

8:44 pm  
Blogger Katherine said...

Wonderful story. I used to wait for 100 years too. I used to cry a lot. Worked well. I'd like to say I could turn it on, but it was genuine. I was a pathetic shy skinny little creature. Think Lady Catherine De Bourgh's daughter in Pride and Predjudice. I would have liked you.

11:32 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

No! It wasn't your mother, it was mine! She was on a day trip to Leeds and hadn't planned to end up in a wheelchair, crippled for life. Our solicitor will be in touch with you shortly.
(Only kidding!)

12:48 am  
Anonymous Shooting Parrots said...

So that is why the haberdasher has disappeared from the High Street!

2:42 pm  

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