WE left school at 14 with reasonably good arithmetic under our caps and multiplication tables firmly implanted. Looking back to the dark ages, insofar that we had wartime blackouts, when a ha'penny had real purchasing power and even a farthing might get you some pork scratchings with an earnest appeal.
Cash was not easy to come by. Paltry pocket money needed to be supplemented.
Delivering Mr Evan's grocery parcels got me one shilling and five toffees. Such luxury! In those days groceries were packed in brown paper, parcelled up tied with string. Mr Evans’ delivery bicycle was an overpowering contraption, hard to manage and a challenge to a scraggy lad like me.
Fronted by a metal basket, crammed with six grocery parcels, it was unstable and easily toppled with its small front wheel. He would get livid if any eggs got smashed.
The saddle needed cushioning with a beret otherwise it could tear the seat out of my trousers. The brakes were unreliable, more cosmetic than functional. If I moaned about it he would snap, "It's for pushing, not to ride."
I recall particularly one rather posh residence, where I made a delivery, soon to discover that they were hoitytoity folk. Having pedalled down their lengthy driveway I had the temerity to stand on the front doorstep to pull the doorbell. Directed to the rear entrance and told to promptly remove the bicycle off the driveway.
Making my way, with parcel in hand, toward the trademan's entrance, there came bounding round the corner an Alsatian which sprang sending me sprawling, scattering groceries upon the driveway.
At Scouts we'd learned about defence against a ferocious dog, ideally having a barrier.
Flailing with both legs the animal got its teeth into the leg hem of my short trousers, so began a tug-of-war tussle.
Being a scraggy, beanpole lad my belted trousers were rarely well hoisted, constantly battling with gravity. Now, hanging on to my belt, they were being yanked heading toward my ankles thereby shackling my legs, the only defence to avoid being bitten. Letting go of the belt the Alsatian took off with my togs just when the young lady of the household came to me rescue. The dog was not ferocious, she told me, in fact he was quite docile. The reason for its boisterous behaviour was his search for dog biscuits that the previous delivery lad always kept in his trouser pocket to offer him.
Bringing the dog to heel, she handed me my crumpled togs.
He was being playful and that rather diminished the punch of my story. I wanted to boast to my friends of being attacked by a dangerous dog, but the tale had lost its bite.
Memories of a young Taplow in 1943 — By Tom Taplow