Butcher Boy ( Part 7, Christmas 72)
Christmas 1972 was just around the corner and now we really had to work hard. This is a magic time of year for Butchers , they can earn a fortune. Its very long hours, very hard work, but very good money!
Roy ordered the Turkeys from a farm in Norfolk and they would be delivered a week before Christmas. I didn't go to school for the whole of December, instead spent everyday in the shop. Told Mum and Dad that there was nothing to do because of "exams", but told the school that a close relation had died and was too upset to attend.
The week run up to Christmas we would work up to 18 hours a day. I was shown how to "draw" a turkey, which means how to put your hand inside the bird and "draw" out its innards! Roy and Micky would be cutting up and rolling Beef or legs of Pork ( not much Lamb was sold at Christmas), there were Hams to boil, sausages to make, we even made our own dripping. All these skills I had learnt in the past 6 months, I could now make sausages from start to finish.
Customers would start ordering their Christmas meat at the beginning of December, Roy also ran a Christmas club all year round and by the time Christmas came along there was a nice few quid in the club kitty.
The great thing about a Christmas club is that people are paying for something in advance of getting it! Some people would start their contributions in January! Some people would have no idea how much they had put in, they would just put in a different amount every week ( as much as they could afford). They would ask Roy in about October how much was in their club money. Roy, as bright as a button, would ask them how much they "thought" they had in there. If the customer said they had no idea or a rough figure, Roy would go away and calculate it a few pounds short of what it really was, no one ever questioned it.
Also, a lot of old people love a Christmas club, it helps them budget their money and helps with the cost of Christmas. In fact I would say that as much as 75% of the club money was put in by old ladies over 65. But of course by the time that Christmas came along, unfortunately some of these old ladies were no longer with us, so the money was just left in the kitty. Whatever way you looked at it, the Christmas club was a real money earner!
The orders came in thick and fast during December, so we knew what stock we had to get and also what we should get to sell at the last minute on Christmas Eve. That Christmas we sold over 200 fresh Turkeys, I know cos I took the insides out of most of them!
Christmas Eve was manic, pure mayhem but great fun. We had bottles of Sherry and Whisky for the customers, everyone that came in had a choice of drink. Some of the old girls got rather tipsy and I can still hear one old lady singing "Long Haired Lover from liverpool" by Jimmy Osmond at the top of her voice whilst doing the can -can!
On Christmas Eve, I left the shop at 16.00, the most tired I had ever been in all of my 14 years. I had started at 04.30 that morning and the night before that we had finished at 22.00.
My wages for the week was £100, Roy and Micky also gave me all the money that was in the "Tip" box. This was a box that we put on the counter at the beginning of December and customers would put in their "tips". The tip box gave me an extra £45.
It was the most money I had ever had, the problem was that having been at work all the time I hadn't bought any Christmas presents. So on the way home I bought a Christmas card for Mum, Dad and Ruth and put £20 in each.
I got home and once again fell asleep, Mum didn't have the heart to wake me so I slept on the settee all night until 09.00 the next morning. Exhaustion had kicked in and for the next two days I was physically ill. Sick, shivers, the lot.
I missed Christmas in 1972.
One thing that I didn't notice but everyone else did, was that I was getting bigger, much bigger. Since I started in March, I had put on two stone, all muscle. I was no longer a skinny kid, I was strong without an ounce of fat. Hard manual work and eating lots of steaks had really kicked in!
I began to notice things around me differently as well, when I went back to school after the Christmas break, I missed Roy and Micky. I was now back amongst kids again and I had been used to being with Men. I was used to adult humour and conversations, swearing, satire and real woman. There was always lots of yummy mummies coming in who you could have a laugh and joke with. Being with kids my own age was no longer fun.
I turned 15 in January 1973.