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A Shout From The Attic: The Stone

"At Christmas when the cakes and puddings were mixed, the best treat was to scrape the basin and lick the wooden spoons. Uncooked cake and pudding mix tastes far better than the finished product...'' Ronnie Bray remembers the days of bread making and cake baking.

The stone was a large slab of quarried limestone standing on two limestone pillars. Its purpose was to keep the dark room and its contents cool. It stood in the room at the front of the cellar, parallel to the larger kitchen, and was an ideal training ground for those who wanted to explore dark, dank dungeons.

Under the stone were some queer looking contraptions that were cockroach traps. They were round with sloping sides so the roaches could climb up and had butterfly-wing shaped plates fixed on small rods, with a small dished section about the size of a half-crown in the centre. This could be filled with sugar to attract the little fellows who would clamber up the sides slavering with excitement at the treat in store and then with their ecstatic little legs scurrying onto the butterfly wings would be tipped into the dark interior to perish. These contraptions were never used to my knowledge; they just lived under the stone. It is said that if an object is Victorian and no known use can be attached to it, it is probably a trap.

There were lots of dusty old beer bottles under the stone, and other things too dusty and mysterious for young hands to touch for fear of something nasty happening. The top of the stone was the normal resting-place for the large earthenware mixing bowls that were used to make bread in. Mother and grandmother baked all their own bread. The bread was good and tasty. The kitchen table would be full of flour and dough as the kneading went on for what seemed like hours. When finished the basins would be stood in the hearth near the fire to rise. The rising was miraculous. Bits pulled from the rising dough were much better than the bread it made.

In the stone room was a small cupboard with perforated zinc sides and door held into the stonework with spikes having flat round bored ends through which nails were driven to hold it firm. This was called the safe and was the place where meat was kept to keep predators and insects from making free with it.

At Christmas when the cakes and puddings were mixed, the best treat was to scrape the basin and lick the wooden spoons. Uncooked cake and pudding mix tastes far better than the finished product. We did not find money in our Christmas puddings. Just thought I would mention it in case you were wondering.

The house was just about fifty yards from the main entrance to Greenhead Park in Trinity Street. This provided me with a garden and plenty of play areas. I walked through it with Norma some time after my December 1996 heart attack and marked all that had changed since those days. So much of its glory has vanished. It seems that such places were safe back then. Maybe they weren’t, but maybe we were just lucky. Life is hell for unlucky kids.

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