The village shop; what a wonderful thing, and how sad to have one and lose it. The other week I took the dogs for a walk around the hamlet of Clint Green, which is near Yaxham (or part of Yaxham – never quite sure how that works out as they’re a mile apart) and noticed that the scaffold is up around the old village store, D&P Gant.
The shop has been closed for a while now but while I was growing up there in the 70s it was at the centre of village life. It was run by Dennis Gant, a man of formidable appearance but kindly disposition and his wife Paddy.
Their little shop was a boon in the days when the enveloping sprawl of the supermarket hadn’t quite filled in rural Norfolk. The Gants sold something of everything and they were good folk, even opening up specially one Christmas Eve late because mum ran out of marzipan or something mission-critical.
But what we kids were interested in was behind the counter; rows of glass jars packed with sugary delights, shelves stacked with boxes of Fruit Salads and Blackjacks – eight for a penny! Eight for a penny! Unbelievable value.
Then there were the Refreshers, Pacers, Opal Fruits, Sherbert Fountains, foam saucers, liquorice sticks, traffic light lollipops, coconut tobacco, sweet cigarettes... this was nirvana in sugar shapes. And the best bit was that it was usually free.
I should qualify that; kindly as the Gants were they had a business to run but they had a credit account system whereby goods could be purchased by trustworthy customers, the value written in a book and the debt settled at the end of the month. It was a boon to the penniless child and we were permitted to select a few sweets and put them on ‘the bill’.
However, I am ashamed to admit that temptation got the better of my eight-year-old self and one month the bill was, family legend has it, the size of the national debt. Aghast, my mother quizzed Mr G who grassed me up.
I had been buying up large stocks of goodies and sharing the booty in the playground of our adjacent school, apparently. I can’t remember the sharing bit, but I’ll run with the juvenile Robin Hood approach on the basis that if I’d eaten them all myself I’d certainly have type 2 diabetes now.
Gants was also at the centre of a great drama which put my younger sister in hospital. Exiting the school bus one dark winter afternoon she skipped across the road to grab a bag of goodies and was flipped straight over the bonnet of a passing car – thankfully one adhering to the speed limit.
Even so it meant six weeks in the Jenny Lind hospital with a broken leg in traction. She did get a lot of sweets though. DOMINIC CASTLE,
Editor, EDP Norfolk Magazine 01603 772758/07725 201153, dominic.cas[email protected]
A sweet trip down memory lane...