There are many things from my childhood I wish I had kept and saved. Others I am not so fussed about. (My mother recently produced my teenage diaries complete with lock and key which she had kept all this time. Oh the angst and high emotions in just one day's entry. I decided after a quick glance not to read them any further).
When my parents travelled to the UK in the 1970s they made a point of seeking out these little hand crafted market stalls to bring back with them. Yesterday I got them out of the shoe box and tissue paper they had been residing in for more than 25 years. I thought I might give them to my daughter for her upcoming birthday.
Apart from the disintegration of some of the glue, they were in remarkably good shape. They are quite small, only about 20 cm across.
The quality of the workmanship is quite incredible. And they are also a little history of traditional English food. There are pork pies, fresh butter, pigeons, wild rabbit, turkey, Swiss rolls, chocolate eclairs and strings of sausages.
These apples look the same as they did when I was given them in 1977.
And this wedding cake was always one of my favourites. I found playing with cakes was every bit as satisfying as eating them!
I also have a fish shop, run by Mr Pike the fishmonger, complete with native oysters, Cornish crabs, lobster and salmon.
These stalls were designed by Caroline Watt, who in 1979 employed 35 people making these crafts, which is quite a sizable business in one sense. A bit of googling told me the business ceased in 2000. Her items are catalogued by the British Design Council, and the above photo shows a much newer shop.
What is a cream horn anyway? I am dying to know.
I love these little stalls for the same reason I love this book, illustrated by my favourite children's book author, Raymond Briggs, and which tells the story of an elephant and a bad (red-haired) baby who run around an English village stealing various food items from shops, including a pork butcher and a snack bar.
The illustrations evoke the now gone past world of the specialist food shop. In our current world of over airconditioned food halls and supermarkets which sell everything, I find that I miss the little local shops. And I could do with some more East End barrow boys hanging around the place menacingly! Like this one, who doesn't even notice the elephant behind him.
After all, it was only in the early 1960s that they stopped delivering milk by horse and cart in Melbourne. (It's true. My husband can remember hearing the clip clopping noise of the hoofs).