The shop on Burlington Avenue sold my two favourite things in my 11 year old world. Still young and innocent. It would soon be cigarettes and booze, but for now, it was comics and sweets. The shop was on my school route and I would arrive giddy with my friends after final bell. The windows were covered in a yellow film, which I think it was to stop the sun fading display items. I wasn’t sure. It bathed the shop’s interior with a sunlight yellow glow whether it was sunny or not. The shop owners would get quite upset if too many school children came in the shop at once. Torn between wanting to sell merchandise and not wanting to succumb to shoplifters, they were sometimes friendly, but more often irritable. Some of my friends stole but I was too scared of being caught and my mum finding out.
The long wall behind the shop counter, where Mrs and Mrs Clarkson, two huge, red faced old people stood, was filled with jars of sweets. So many varieties, it was hard to choose. On the opposite side of the shop was a wall of magazines and stationary. Pentel pens, paper glue, rubbers and Tippex. Dotted around the shop were rotating racks which were filled with comics. I never had more than a few pence each day. So I could not afford them often, but I would spend most of my visits staring at the covers. Trying to get a sense of the story within. Spiderman, Iron Man, Superman, The Hulk, The Avengers and Captain America were my favourites. The world usually poised on a knife edge of destruction and Captain America only had seconds so save us! Would he do it? I would save up through the week until usually on a Friday, I could afford the 10p or 12p to make a purchase.
Eventually, I wanted more than one comic each week and decided the best way to do this was to earn some more cash. So I took one of the paper rounds advertised in the window. It was an after school delivery of about a mile around the Burlington estate and paid £3 per week. I would soon be able to afford a lot of more comics. And sweets. I’d never go comic-less again. I started on the Monday and everything went well apart from I kept falling off my bike. The paper bag was just too big and heavy to cycle with. The next day, I set off on the round on foot. There were a few places with dogs. One where the dog would yelp as you approached the door and then the paper would get dragged in through the letterbox. No doubt to be angrily shredded. At another, an Alsatian wanted to eat my head and would have but for a chain link fence. I didn’t ever wish to find out if it’s bite was worse than it’s bark.
I kept up my paper round for a week and then, like many things at that stage of my life, I got lazy. The novelty wore off. I arrived later and later. I didn’t understand why the paper round had to start bang on time anyway. Surely, so long as the papers arrived, what was the big rush? Mr Clarkson would have choice words for me each time I was late. ‘Not good enough Mr Slingsby.’ Once, I turned up and Mrs Clarkson informed me that Mr Clarkson had set off on the round as he thought I was a no show. I caught him half way around. His light blue shirt stained dark down his back with the warm afternoon sun and his face was redder than ever. He looked like his head might explode. Two days later, I was late again and this time Mrs Clarkson had set off with my bag. For the first time in my short life, I discovered the bitter sting of the sack. Mr Clarkson told me ‘It was time to part company, Mr Slingsby’. I was given my pay and told to be on my way. It was a relief. I hated that paper round. I went back to having to make do on my pocket money alone and just the one comic per week. I was a happier boy and the Alsatian never got it’s wish.