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At the local butchers aged 10 & 3/4

Mr Brown, the butcher, was sawing through a large beef bone.

Hard white bone chips and sinew flew up and out,

hitting the underneath of the curved glass screen,

it sounded like the machine gun noise I heard

when watching the Daffy Duck cartoons

at the Odean’s Saturday morning pictures.

As he strained to cut,

the large muscle at the top of his arm bulged.

I’ll have muscles like that one day,

I’ll get my ‘Bullworker’ out, and practice

Sweat dripped off his forehead.

It just missed splashing the meat.

He pulled down,

then pushed up,

his white trilby

mopping up those wayward, glistening beads on the sweatband.

His apprentice was using the large slicer with the big round blade

that rotated faster than my front bicycle wheel

when careering leg splayed down Castor hill.

The young apprentice had mastered his task.

The ham for Mrs Dewberry, expertly sliced and then ejected,

onto a piece of white tissue, handheld, landing one on top of the other.

He placed misshaped oddments into a black ceramic dish

Then placed that atop a tall sparkling glass with a metal trim counter,

customers could taste these samples and then hopefully buy.

I realised later in life that this was good marketing,

I realised there and then it was just good free ham

Wishing to be four inches taller,

even if I stretched, I couldn’t reach.

I would try anyway and fail, Mr Brown senior, old man Brown,

would pass me the plate and I’d choose the biggest piece, no fat.

Initially savouring the taste of this fine ham,

It heightened my sense of smell.

I became attuned to the other meats stored and on display.

Raw sausage, black pudding, mince, and pork chops,

My tasting pleasure for this ham lessened

As these smells lingered, attacking my nostrils and smelling nerves,

The butcher’s shop also housed some disgusting sights

Hanging carcasses of half sheep

Four pig's trotters and its severed head.

Mrs Rushen arrived and wanted to buy some pig's livers and kidney

There was no answer to the mystery of how people

Could even touch this awful offal, let alone eat it

A red ooze surrounded each spoonful

dripped off it like a snotty nosebleed

The little white plastic bag became stained with blood

like someone had trapped and killed several small vertebrates

smashing them repeatedly with a heavy rolling pin

We were having bacon rashers for tea,

so once again, the now-experienced apprentice

took his place in front of the deadly-sounding whirling meat slicer

The bacon joint seemed to scream

as the rotating monster's blade cut through.

Again, all rashers collected onto a piece of tissue

Then, folded and placed into an appropriate white plastic bag,

He went to a nondescript little machine

that put coloured tape around our bag opening

I surmised to stop our rashers from falling out.

I wanted to have a go,

that machine could put a little red plastic ring on my finger

I could become engaged with that nondescript machine.

At the payment till there was no money to change hands.

I had a special note from mum,

presumably, we got free meat

when we had a special note from mum

Old man Brown wrote into a small notebook

that had our family name on the front,

there were many of these little notebooks on the shelf

I was unaware of what a tic book was, so felt no shame

many places that we shopped required a note from mum

followed by an entry in a little notebook

Even the ‘pop man’ had a little notebook

I had this feeling the two old ladies didn’t have a tic book on the shelf

Because as I left and shut the butcher's shop door,

I could see through the glass pane

both Mrs Rushen and Mrs Dewberry

staring at me, and shaking their heads,

I felt sorry for them

Having to tell old man brown

that they didn’t have a special note from their mum

and would therefore have to pay cash.

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