Chip off the old block

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THERE must be a huge factory somewhere in Hartlepool working on an important mission 24 hours a day – producing leaflets for take-away food shops.

We seem to get one through the letterbox most days, and there’s certainly a huge range of tempting international dishes available these days.

It set me thinking about the fact that, when I was a kid, just about the only fast food available was the traditional fish and chip shop.

Even the prices stick in my head – a “fish and three” was a common order.

Translated for the youngsters, that meant a generous portion of crisp, fried cod and threepence worth of chips.

That’s threepence in old money, of course, which is roughly one penny in the funny new stuff which will never catch on.

Then again, ordering a fish was pretty up market and it was more common to go for a pattie and chips.

When I was very young, I was often sent down Hurworth Street, where one of my granddads lived, to get the chip shop treat.

It was an early taste of responsibility – I could go down to the corner of the street and Raby Road without crossing traffic, and felt very grown up taking on the family task and looking after the cash too.

Even at that age, I noticed the raised eyebrows when someone ordered fish rather than a pattie at lunchtime – signifying poshness or a big win on the pools.

That word “pattie” is not always understood outside our patch and while it roughly translates as a fishcake, it’s not quite the same thing is it?

As I was growing up and heard and read about posh restaurants serving pate, I didn’t realize it was something trendy to have as a starter with toast; I just presumed that places like the Savoy had cottoned on to Hartlepool chippy fashion.

Talking of posh nosh, I was very disappointed when I had my first visit to a top restaurant.

I’d grown up reading the adventures of Lord Snooty and his pals in the comics – was it the Dandy or the Beano? Whenever they did something good, (like rescuing the local millionaire’s cat) they were always rewarded with a “slap-up meal” which always consisted of a tower of mashed potato with sausages sticking out of the side.

I searched posh menus for years without finding that on offer.

One of my enduring memories of a chip shop goes back to that time in young life when you are allowed out with your friends and no adults and come under what is called these days “peer pressure”. It used to be called doing as you were told by the big kids.

Late one evening, towards chip shop closing time, I was told to go inside and ask the shopkeeper if he had any chips left.

Once he replied in the affirmative, my instructed response was, “Well, you shouldn’t have made so many then.” He may well have the heard the gag before.

Without a word, he walked around the counter and smacked my head.

I still can’t go past a chip shop without remembering the sore ear.