Sharing with the Neighbours

The most heart-warming aspect of life then was the willingness to share. Without a second thought those who suddenly found themselves with a little roughness would send it around neighbours’ doors for sharing out.

Saturday nights were best for such a bonanza. At Number Three, Tan Open, for example there was a family with growing children: the youngest boy was about my age but he had an older brother who worked as a message boy for Whitten’s of Sugar Island. 

He received a share of whatever remained unsold there by Saturday evening, or orders uncollected, perishable food that might not survive the weekend. And naturally (or so the local rule ran) his parents willingly shared that with their deserving neighbours. 

People didn’t cede to ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. 

‘There’s nothing bad that couldn’t be worse!’ was a favourite expression of our next-door neighbour, Minnie Smith.

I never did get the full measure of all who lived in that house. She had two sons and two daughters anyway, all elderly and I don’t think there was any father for I never heard his name mentioned. Then I heard he had died years ago. There was Mary Ann who was nearly as old as Minnie herself. Where she fitted in I don’t know.

My granny was great with them. Many’s the evening – at about half past eight or a quarter to nine – she would gather in that house with a number of neighbours. Till about half past ten she would sit on a chair in the middle of their room and read stories to the rest. It might be a Red barn Mystery of The Tales of Maria Monk. 

The ability to read was a rare enough commodity and one to be shared. Alternative forms of entertainment were costly or just not available.

And the aul’ people would be quick to remind her, when at last they re-assembled, just where in the story she had left off!  

That’s Tom and his sister in front, with Irene Dean (our reader from Spain!) on the right!


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