Back in the 1970s the newsagents on the Sydenham estate in Bridgwater which was roughly situated where the entrance to the Co-op is today, did a small line in fishing tackle nothing too extravagant mind you just line, shot and floats etc this small assortment was situated on a 3-ft wide display behind the counter to the right as you went in.
The shop was run by Mr and Mrs Muir now Mr and Mrs Muir shall we say we’re not from working class stock and most people had the impression that running a newsagents especially one on the Sydenham estate was well beneath them, obviously things did not go to plan and there they were.
One particular Saturday afternoon just before closing time I entered the premises. The purpose of my visit was to purchase a packet of BB shot. On entering I noticed I was the only customer. Behind the Counter was the well-to-do Mrs Muir she was a Tall and slightly built woman in her late 50s with long black hair with a hint of Grey. Dressed in an upmarket blue dress and Bangles on each arm she observed me through her horned rimmed glasses which wouldn’t look out of place on a soulless schoolmistress from the 1940s, and there I stood before her wearing plastic sandals grey socks, trousers which was too short and a shirt that needed washing.
She just stood there looking at me foundling her very elegant necklace, she cocked her head slightly and seemed very perplexed on how to handle the situation of being in the presence of this product of poverty. She came to the conclusion that I was not worthy of communication and with her eyes firmly fixed on me she slowly moved backwards towards the opening to the back store room which was adorned by multi-coloured strips that was popular at the time. She stopped when she reached the entrance and duly summoned Mr Muir “Arthur shop” almost immediately Mr Muir’s head appeared through the strips “what is it” he said in a baffled voice as he looked at his wife.
Mrs Muir did not say a word but with her long finger pointed in my direction Mr Muir followed his wife instructions and thus his gaze was now upon me. “Oh” came Mr Muir’s utterance then he fully emerged from the back store room. This was now the destination of Mrs Muir no doubt to read the latest edition of Tatler or to inspect her recent purchases from Harrods. Mr Muir was about the same age as his wife and stood six foot at least, today he was wearing a black pinstripe suit with a pink shirt and matching tie. “Yes can I help you he said as he looked down at me. “Can I have a packet of BB shot please” I replied. Over to the fishing display he went, looked up and down and sidewards both ways and repeated the motion once more. I don’t have BB shot you are have to have a pack of assorted shot there should be some B&Bs in there, he then threw a packet on the counter in my direction with that he came over to me and presented the palm of his hand to receive payment.
“Fifteen pence” Now many weeks previous I had forgone all my sweets and comics and saved most of my pocket money and when my savings reached £1 I swapped all the coins with my dad who gave me a crisp £1 note of which I had now in my possession. Challenged by the demand of paying 15 pence I reached into my pocket and produced the pound note .Mr Muir was aghast his face said it all. The impression it gave was where the eck did he get that from. He quickly snapped back his hand he held out and with the other quickly retrieve the packet of shot from the counter turned around and replaced it back on his hook on the fishing display. whilst did this he looked over his shoulder and in what appeared to be panicky voice spluttered out “I can’t change that I just cashed up there is hardly any change in the till I can’t change that I’m going to close up now and you have to leave, come back tomorrow sorry”. Bloody hell did he say sorry I thought. feeling slightly annoyed I turned around and walked to the door, as I grabbed the handle I turned around and there was Mr and Mrs Muir looking at me from the back store room through the gaps they had made in the strips . no doubt thinking that they have thwarted some kind of money laundering scheme I opened the door and left.
Now being a customer for fishing bits and bobs in this shop was not always this daunting. Enter Harry, this charming man who was 60ish was a joint proprietor of the newsagents he was always smartly dress dress in very smart suits which seemed to be the work of tailors from Saville Row, Well tanned he always wore a carnation with his immaculate attire. One very subtle difference between Harry and the Muir’s was that Harry couldn’t give two figs about social standing. When I went in to the shop and Harry was serving me it was always “Its Mr Curnow right yes that right and what can I do for you Mr Curnow” Indeed all my mates got the same polite treatment, It was always Mr Rawle, Mr Bragg, Mr Ford or Mr Perry.
Harry always had time for a short conversation and we found out that it was his idea to have this small fishing section in the shop and very lucrative it was too. Harry also revealed that he was also a fisherman, no ever saw him on the bank though, but no one doubted his word.
When I drive up Parkway on the Sydenham estate which I do when going to fish the Sedgesor Dunwaer ponds I always glance across to where that shop was situated, the entrance part of the Co-op and fondly remember Harry. Unfortunately I remember two other people as we.