Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sweets, groceries, soft-drinks, interrogations...

Mrs Elliot's shop in Edmondstown, just below the Reckitt's factory, was the local sweet shop for we kids for many years. It had a wider variety of confectionary than my uncle's pitch 'n'putt clubhouse, although Elliot's was further away. For a while it was a fair distance on foot, then the local gang acquired bicycles and it wasn't such a hardship to take a spin down there.

The shop, which was on the upper floor of a split-level house in a deep cutting by the roadside, had a decent shop window in which penny sweets, lollypops, and jars of other goodies were displayed. The narrow doorway opened into a dark hall, one deep step down, which had a counter and display to the left and a small window, curtained on the other side, which must have looked out from a room in the house. A simple bell push on the wall immediately ahead of the visitor by a door that led into the living quarters summoned Mrs Elliot if she was not already behind the counter.

I like bags of "Indian popcorn", which was just a regular variety covered in a sweet, syrupy, coloured food dye, and they cost 2p each. I also liked ice-cream, which Mrs Elliot sold by the individual pre-wrapped factory produced lolly, or cut herself from a block and served between two wafers. You could buy a 2p wafer or a 5p wafer, the difference being the thickness of the slice of ice-cream. My favourite, though, was the HB (hughes Brothers had a creamery and factory in the Rathfarnham area until very recently) "Golly" bar, which was a type of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a foil wrapper with lots of smiling gollywogs on it. I don't expect my Golly bar is sold any more in this politically correct age.

Mrs Elliot mostly catered for the nearby factory, and so cigarettes and a few grocery items were also stocked. She would sometimes make up a sandwich for Miss Eagan, if the teacher had forgotten to make lunch for herself that morning. I was sometimes deputised to walk down to Elliot's and ask her to make one up. It wasn't part of the service, but Mrs Elliot usually obliged.

I'm told she also sold individual tomatoes and single cigarettes to our miserly landlords. It wouldn't surprise me.

One thing that you could always rely upon was Mrs Elliot's appetite for gossip. Whether you were buying penny sweets or fetching a few groceries for teatime she would appear in her blond, curled hair and pinny and ask:

"How is your mother? Is she still working in the factory?"

I'd answer politely (as I'd been taught) and ask for another item from the list.

"How is your married sister? Where is she living?"

My mother used to ask me at the other end of the journey what Mrs Elliot had been saying.

"Ask her if her son is still living in the caravan!" she'd spit out, putting away the groceries. Mrs Elliot's son lived in a mobile home on a site near the house.

Interrogations aside, I used to enjoy that little shop. Sad to say, it changed hands some years back, and although it remained open for a while, I think the downgrading and eventual closure of the nearby Reckitts factory probably removed much of its profitability. The shop has been discontinued and the doorway blocked up. There is little trace of Elliot's shop now, just a blank wall of a house with its back turned to the passing traffic.

Interestingly, they are building apartments all along the roadway north of where the shop once was. I reckon it would make some money as a small grocery again if it was ever re-opened. There'd be no Mrs Elliot, though. She must have gone to her reward a long time ago.

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