Shopping’s not one of my favourite pastimes, I admit, but it’s a thing that has to be done. I suppose it’s because I never venture far off my weekly list. Am not very adventurous with my tastes now Millie’s gone. She did all the cooking then. I was spoilt, but she loved to look after me. Now it’s the same old microwave meals. They’re very convenient aren’t they and there’s no washing up apart from the cutlery. It’s not the same as homemade. That’s why every Friday I go to Sidney’s Fisheries for a fish supper.
It’s good to have a focus, something to look forward to, and this is my thing. I go for the food and to absorb the atmosphere, but mainly to eavesdrop. Friday’s are busy as you can guess. At the end of the working week, who wants to ‘press start’ or cook a meal? It’s ‘let’s get a take-away’ or ‘let’s eat out.’ For me, it has to be, a sweet cup of tea, fish ‘n’ chips, two slices of white, buttered bread and mushy peas. Don’t you dare put any of those ‘arty farty’ lemons on my plate, please. I want to eat my food not admire it. Eric, who owns the café, said you just squeeze it over the fish. I don’t think so. It’s salt ‘n’ vinegar or nothing.
Eric’s a great guy. My age I think, maybe older, but not retired yet. Not his style, not working. I’m not lazy though, oh no. Come rain or fair weather, you’ll find me on my allotment. I know what you’re thinking. Allotments are for growing veg but he doesn’t cook. Well, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the toil of the land; seeding the earth, cultivating, nurturing, and bringing to bear the best food around. Some’s for competition and the rest for sale or exchange. I swap carrots, beans and peas for Bert’s ‘hush-hush’ beer. He thinks his wife’s oblivious to his antics but she knows. She told me; as long as he’s brewing in his shed, he’s not messy with any women. As for my sideboard, it’s always dressed with flowers from Delma in exchange for my potatoes.
Allotments and potatoes, there’s a thing. They forever hold a connection with me. I shall tell you as I told a couple of teenagers last Friday.
They were already in Sidney’s when I arrived, tucking into their fish suppers as I ordered mine. The only free table was next to theirs. I sipped my tea as I waited, listening into their conversation.
‘Don’t you find it boring that the last generation are so ignorant of the consequences of their environmental mistakes?’ said the curly haired one with the glasses.
‘Oh yeah. It’s so wrong, and we have to deal with the long term issues from the likes of Sellafield and Chernobyl. We are the ‘clean up’ generation. Mops in hand and buckets for the trash. We won’t be making those errors. We are too conscientious to dump endless environmental disasters on the future ones,’ said the lanky one.
‘Yeah, we’re like the Tipp-Ex to the inkpot spilling oldies.’ They both laughed.
I listened on.
‘Our generation invented eco-friendly, right?’
‘Oh yeah. I’ve got the latest bag for life from the net. Should be coming in the post anytime now,’ said Curly.
‘You know, they do moan about the bins they have to use to sort out the waste. They just think they’re eyesores. I mean, it just makes it easier, I think.’
‘Actually, I’m a bit nit-picky about those plastics; you know there are some that you can’t recycle at the moment.’
‘Yeah. Well, you don’t have to put up with your grandparents cynicism.’
One nudged the other and both looked over at me. I was smiling at them, ready with some ammunition. I could sense a fight was on.
‘Are you laughing at us?’ said Curly. I sucked into my fish supper that had just arrived. I shook my head.
‘Yeah, but you were listening to our conversation?’
‘Have you got something to say?’ They challenged. I nodded.
They’d invented the environmentally friendly thing? I assured them they weren’t the first. I think they’d forgotten a piece of history, a very important piece. In the war we had rationing, they wouldn’t have liked that. I was a ‘baby boomer’ and it still went on then. There was no wasting food; it was all used up in next day’s meal. Clothes were made into other items or used as rags to clean or lagging. As for a ‘bag for life,’ I’ve had one for 65 years; all my life.
‘How’s that then?’ they asked. They seemed interested.
When I was only a few days old, so I was told, I was dumped outside an allotment shed. Luckily for me the weather was fair and the potato sack kept me reasonable warm.’
‘You were left in a potato sack? How awful,’ said Curly.
‘What about your parents?’ asked Lanky.
I’m sure they gathered that it was a case of father unknown and shamed young girl. I was told she was probably local to the area and that she’d gone missing a while, probably gave birth to me in the allotment and then ran off, never to be heard of.
I was taken in by the family who found me. My new mother loved me as one of her own and I grow up amongst six siblings. Father nicknamed me Spud and Mother hid the potato sack till I was older, till I was able to understand and accept my terrible beginnings.
The sack was given to me, with the story, when I was eight. I accepted it with no questions and was to spend the rest of my life making use of this constant reminder of my roots.
One of the girls sniggered at my unintended pun. I smiled.
The old trusted sack came out on sports days for the sack race which I always won. I stuffed my few possessions in it the day I left home. When I got my first digs by the sea, the wild, winter waves would often flood the streets, so the sack was filled with sand and barracked my front door.
At the moment I used it to carry my shopping. In the end, someone might carry my ashes in it.
Both girls were a little shocked but appreciative of my story. The lanky one dared to ask if I had the bag on me. It was folded in my coat pocket. I opened it up and showed them it. The way they looked at the bag was as if I’d produced the Shroud of Turin.
They both looked at each other as if they were reading each other’s minds, and nodded. Curly asked if I would help them with a presentation they were working on for a college project, Eco Warriors. They wanted me to share my story with their peers. I agreed. I didn’t have much on so that was okay. It was something to look forward to.