Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Definition of Patience

I was thinking about "patience" today and I thought, "What could require more patience than to serve children in a candy store?"

Actually, I didn't think "candy store," but "sweet shop," and my mind wandered back through many decades, to the 1950's in Alvechurch, the Worcestershire village in England, in which I grew up.

There were several sweet shops in the village, but the quintessential sweet shop belonged to Miss Twitty.  The lamp post in this photograph is right in front of what used to be her sweet shop, at the bottom of Bear Hill.

Miss Twitty worked in this little shop for 34 years; from 1929, when the previous owners retired, to 1963, and she had bought it in 1933. Thirty four years of serving the children of the village.

I only knew her for the last 4 of her years in the shop, but they were the years I grew from 9 years old to 13--so they were significant and she was imprinted on my memory of childhood.

Miss Twitty wore her steel gray hair parted on the side and cut in a chin length bob. Blue gray beady eyes peered from behind glasses perched on the nose of a sharp featured face.She was thin and angular; all shoulders and elbows.

Her sitting room was to the right of the shop door and she would emerge from there on hearing the chime of the door bell.

How often I stood in front of her counter, gazing at the jars full of old fashioned sweets: Lemon drops; flying saucers (rice paper discs filled with sherbet;) toffees; liquorice; dolly mixture; sweet tarts; jelly babies; aniseed balls; pineapple rock; an array of Cadbury chocolate bars; and ice lollies and ice creams in the freezer.

I was painfully shy and my voice shrank to a whisper when addressing Miss Twitty. I can only imagine how she must have had to strain to hear me squeaking out my order, having deliberated for an eternity on what it would be; finally turning over the coins that had been clutched in my hot and sweaty fist. What patience she must have had with the children, for these were serious decisions requiring much thought; long staring at the jars of sweets and many changed minds.

Miss Twitty's sweet shop is memorialized on one of the park benches on the village green.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

So funny - I was just thinking of the place I used to stop into on the way home from school. My go to place was "Mary's". It was a coffee counter/burger/slop joint just outside the gates of the dockyard. The small dingy café was visited by big, tough and dirty burly men - who quite frankly scared me. I never looked right or left when entering lest I met the hooded gaze of men worn by a life of hard work. Besides, the candy lay straight ahead.

The proprietor was "Mary" - she was called "Big Mary" with affection by the men - but we just called her Mary. She indeed was a bulbous woman, her cotton shift taunt around her bits and pieces. She huffed and puffed behind the counter, delivering food and remarks with equal indifference.

Yet this larger than life woman would lumber to this 3 foot section of penny candy and patiently wait, wheezing slightly, as we made the biggest decisions of our young life - for that moment at least. If you had a nickel you would want to get the most for each penny - 2 small jawbreakers or 3 mo-jo's or 2 caramels. She watched, giving us the silence needed for the math, to work out our treasures. Mary even gave us a wee bag to take them with us (although they never made them home).

I was reminiscing with my sister about "Mary's" the other day, wishing the building was still around. Wishing that we could go back as adults and tell this woman with a heart as big as her backside how much she meant to us. How her place, her interest, her efforts to keep stock of wee, inexpensive treats that her littlest customers could afford was greatly appreciated. My sister echoed my sentiment remembering Mary as one of the positives in a negative time.

There are lessons there. Sweet memories indeed.


Belinda Burston said...

Oh, my, I enjoyed reading your story so much. You did such a good job of describing Mary, and the dock workers. There must be a special place in heaven for Miss Twitty and Mary--Confectionary Corner! :)

Brave Raven said...

I like "Sweet Shop" far more than "Candy Store." It suggests a decadence that makes the visit just as rewarding as the wares.

Dave Hingsburger said...

"Miss Twitty," why do people in English villages have exactly the right names. Before I went to England the first time I thought Charles Dickens was clever with names - nope - the whole country is!!

Belinda Burston said...

Ha ha Dave! Yes, "Miss Twitty" is a perfect name, isn't it? And I love the names of the English towns and villages too! In fact on my list of places to see next time I visit: Chipping Camden:
Moreton in Marsh; Stow in the Wold
--and these are just within half an hour of Alvechurch! :)

Sheila Webster said...

What a cool story! My corner store, was no cornucopia of a sweet shop and sadly I usually just watched my friends spend their allowances on things I could only dream of! (so Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryish!)

Blessings, I have dropped by on my Inscribe Members personal blog tour!

Sheila Webster
Editor-In-Chief
Fellowscript

Belinda Burston said...

Thank you for dropping by for a visit Sheila. I would have had a cup of tea ready had I known! :)