Mr Beevor’s

47 years ago today I attended the 10th birthday party of my treasured schoolboy friend. His mini-gauge model railway was a wonder to behold; we were also much occupied with news coverage of the Investiture that day, at Caernarfon Castle, of Charles, Prince of Wales. (My father attended – and returned home with a small gift for me of an heraldic tiepin: three feathers – Ich Dien or I serve – with which I was and remain delighted); and we enjoyed toast toppers, jelly and ice cream; and I broke the third finger of my right hand by clobbering it on a newel post! We still exchange birthday greetings, and with each year’s anniversaries I recall the joys of childhood. Tonight I’ve been delighted to read Wilfrid Wilson Gibson’s The Shop. The whole work is a lovely poem indeed but the opening lines hereunder were quite enough to bring to mind the sights and scents and person of old Mr Beevor, his Rochester Road shop, his polished brass and mahogany cash register, Woodbines and Park Drive on the shelf behind him and – for we children – threepenny Lucky Bags. Ah: birthdays, poetry and glad remembrances make for many happy returns!

Tin-tinkle-tinkle-tinkle went the bell
As I pushed in, and, once again, the smell
Of groceries and news-sheets freshly printed
That always greeted me when I looked in
To buy my evening-paper: but to-night
I wondered not to see the well-known face
With kind brown eyes and ever-friendly smile
Behind the counter, and to find the place
Deserted at this hour, and not a light
In either window. Waiting there a while,
Though wondering at what change these changes hinted,
I yet was grateful for the quiet gloom —
Lit only by a gleam from the back-room,
And here and there a glint of glass or tin —
So pleasant after all the flare and din …

Wilfred Wilson Gibson
from The Shop, Collected Poems, 1905-1925

Where was “your” shop? Where did you buy shortbread biscuits and pear drops? And – if you close your eyes – do you find, too, that years fly?