Posts Tagged ‘Long Acre’

Last week my nephew sent my mother a link that he’d found on the internet when he googled his grandfather’s name (my father) and the name of his shop, Pearl Cross. It led him to this site for ancient coin collectors(, and a delightful piece by a man called John Hooker, who had been an apprentice at Pearl Cross in the sixties. It reminded me of a piece of memoir writing I did last term when we were challenged to remember when we were thirteen.  This is what I wrote.

Stock Books

Money, or my lack of it, became a source of concern at around the age of thirteen. My best friend Laura had secured a position in the village collecting bottles for Dick-the-Milk and I was desperate to start earning.  Mum came to my rescue by suggesting that I took over from her, write up Dad’s stock books for the year and he’d pay me half a crown per book.  I had neat handwriting then and thought this would be a breeze.  He brought the first two books home the following weekend and I sat for the best part of my Saturday at the dining room table, transferring remaining stock from last year into brand new, leather bound speckled paged ledgers. It was hard, time consuming work, particularly as Dad’s writing was indecipherable and many of his crossings out looped into the line below. I didn’t understand what much of the stock was – I’d never heard of Cabochon; Pearl Drops sounded like sweets and a Half Albert made me think of a small kindly Uncle. Dad was pleased with my efforts and I was thrilled at my first wage packet: five shillings delivered to me in a little brown envelope.

     With the Easter holidays approaching and Dad needing the books complete, I was able to continue my employment, not at the dining room table, to my delight, but at his shop, just off Charing Cross Road. We’d leave our village, perched high on the chalk ridged North Downs, early to avoid the traffic – Dad would  never use public transport – and drive to King Street in Covent Garden. He would park his Mini Traveller in the space between two orange boxes, left there for him by a contact in the fruit trade.  A five minute walk down New Row and across St Martin’s Lane would bring us to Pearl Cross, sandwiched between a second hand book shop and a fish restaurant.  A complicated unlocking process would ensue involving a circle of keys attached by leather fob to a chain worn by my father which seemed to disappear down one trouser leg.  Wooden shutters were lifted off the windows, the burglar alarm secured.

      Our first job of the morning was to unload the wardrobe-sized safe of its contents – velvet trays and leather boxes teeming with jewellery and curios to display in the windows.  I especially loved lining up the little ring cases and dangling necklaces on satin covered dowel rods. I would then go down the steep half spiral stair to the dusty basement where I’d resume my work with the stock books. I sat at an old desk underneath the mottled glass pavement bricks, listening to pedestrian feet, pleased when they stopped, knowing they were peeking at my window above.

     When it was time for lunch, we’d  share a sandwich from the Salisbury on the corner.  Dad never usually took a lunch break as such but on the days I was there, he’d walk me to places like the National Gallery, Foyles or the new Chinese supermarket in Long Acre, and leave me to find my own way back. So my world started to widen and my love affair with the west end, with art and books began.  Thanks, Dad.

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