Archive for the ‘childhood memories’ Category

When I was a kid there was an ice-cream store right in the middle of Portsmouth, just by the Guildhall. Portsmouth is a naval town on the extreme south coast of England, parts of which date back to long before Henry VIII started ridding himself of all those wives. The Mary Rose went down in the channel there and Henry VII made his way to Agincourt from there. Nelson sailed off to Trafalgar on his flagship Victory past the Old Point [and came back pickled in a rum barrel but that’s another blog] and the Bounty Mutineers were hung out in the Solent within sight of The Castle. The British Naval Fleet from time immemorial spends much of it’s time anchored in the natural harbour there. Even the D-Day ships left for France from Southsea Pier.


But I was talking about ice-cream. The ice-cream parlour was called Verrechias. It had marble topped tables and stone floors and within its walls was made the very best ice-cream in the world – or at least the very best ice-cream *I* had ever tasted. For all I know it was bought by the tub down at Sainsburys but I doubt it. The best of the best of the offerings of Verrechias was the Knickerbocker Glory – an ice-cream sundae to break your heart. An Ice-cream sundae that was served in a tall frosty glass with a very long, very cold, metal spoon that you could dip into swirls of chocolate sauce, whipped cream, nuts, cherries, strawberry sauce and vanilla ice-cream so rich, so creamy, so cold that you thought you might pass out with sheer delight.


Along the beachfront at Southsea, the Victorian resort part of Portsmouth that winds it’s way from Clarence Pier at the west end to Southsea Pier at the East end, there were other ice-cream stalls that sold cornets and ice-lollies that you could suck on while you strolled along the ‘front’ or around the Canoe Lake where I once used to catch tadpoles and ‘tiddlers’ to bring home in a jam-jar. And if you were lucky to be there on one of those rare summer days when the wind was light and the sun was hot and brilliant in the sky you could walk out to the very end of Southsea pier and listen to a Jazz band or a brass band while you watched the big Atlantic rollers gently surge from far out over the horizon to swirl on the pebbly beach below.


Down at Old Portsmouth when the tide was out the mudlarks would roll and dive and slither over the seaweed and the silt to catch pennies thrown by passers by. They would be kids of all ages dressed in droopy woven bathing drawers that were constantly in danger of falling off and exposing the skinny little bums beneath. My Uncle Bert used to drive his cab along by the sea-front picking up American sailors from the many visiting ships that were anchored in the harbour. They would offer a handful of money for the fare and he would scoop the lot, on the premise that Americans were rich and we were poor by comparison so they could afford to lose a few bob to a crafty cab driver.


But I was talking about ice-cream. Down in Cornwall when I was a kid they made ice-cream from thick yellow clotted cream. This was before uncomfortable things like calories and Trans Fats and jogging and keep-fit was invented. In those days you could sit by a picturesque harbour wall watching the fishing boats and have fresh baked scones with clotted cream and home-made strawberry jam for tea without the slightest guilt, or you could gorge on thick wadges of hot toast lathered with butter that ran down your chin followed by big slices of Victoria Sponge with mounds of thick fresh cream in the middle and powdered sugar that flew up in puffs when you bit into it and went up your nose .


Ah – those were the days.


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