(107) 'Tuesday Is Lemon Curd'

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(107) 'Tuesday Is Lemon Curd'

Ken
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH6Xg-ctqU0

This memory takes me once again to my Hullmead years.  It begins in the mid 1960's at a time when the Guildford Chamber of Commerce were debating whether their members should close their shops on Mondays.  The argument said that because office and factory workers enjoyed Saturdays and Sundays off, then common sense dictated that shop workers deserved the same length of break. Obviously it couldn't include Saturdays which was the biggest shopping day.  A decision was reached and the result was all day Monday closing took over from Wednesday afternoons off.  For the first time it gave a two day break to people like me and I took immediate advantage of my new situation.  I was in desperate need of extra cash so I started a Monday, cash in hand, job at 'Robert's Cottage,' Jam factory, and a period of fun began!

This thriving business was owned by two brothers who lived in a large house in Woodhill Lane, Shamley Green.  The lane ran between their home and two picturesque ponds in the farm land they owned.  I recall as a child often walking to these ponds to feed the ducks, before continuing around Stroud lane with my parents, en-route to the Bricklayers Arms pub and a bottle of cherryade.  It was in one of the empty farm buildings that the brothers started their Jam making business and it was there, for the next two years, I was to spend my Mondays off.  One of the enduring memories I have is of the women workers and how they'd sing their own words to a popular song of the time.  To appreciate this you need to know of the several types of Jams being poured daily into the attractive, Robert's Cottage, tubs.  On the first day of the week they'd make strawberry jam and on another it would be blackcurrant. They also made raspberry and marmalade and, for reasons that will become obvious, I recall that Tuesday was lemon curd day.

On my first day I discovered I knew many of the, mainly women, workforce,  Their activities fascinated me, particularly when, to ease the monotony of the job, they'd sometimes sing together.  In the summer of 1966, a new song was becoming popular and the ladies adopted it as the, 'Robert's Cottage,' anthem. It was called, '2 Days Monday,' and they decided it suited their Jam making week perfectly.  If you click on the above link, you will hear the song as sung by, The Scaffold, but the ladies substituted a few of the words. Monday's activity was changed from, Washing Day, to Strawberry.  Tuesdays, Soup, became Lemon Curd. Wednesdays, Roast Beef, became Blackcurrant.  Thursdays, Shepherds Pie, became Raspberry, and so on. I promise you, in the hundred or so Mondays I spent there, the women sang that song at least a thousand times, it took just one line from one of them and they were off again.  When they got to Tuesday, and the Lemon Curd part, they'd all put on a very deep voice and then they'd laugh like lunatics.  At the time, it both amused me, and almost drove me mad.  Today, almost fifty years later, the memory delights me.

Every Monday I'd leave home at half past seven in the morning and I'd walk up Woodhill Lane to earn my extra cash. It was always quiet so I could indulge my love of music by letting rip with my vocal chords as I strode to the jam factory and my day of work. I'd sing a rousing version of Jim Reeves, Distant Drums, and I'd attempt to reach the high notes on Roy Orbison's, Running Scared.  Those Mondays were fun days but they were also hard working days.  As the hot pots of Jam constantly came down the conveyor belt, the women had to place them in large trays, and it was my job to collect and carry these heavy trays to a cooling area.  There the stacks of jam would stay until the jam had set. It was always a race against time and I took pride in being quicker than the full time guys.  There were occasions where I'd hear shouts of panic and I'd realise a full timer had dropped a tray, for I'd see hot liquid Jam running in all directions. When I first experienced this I was horrified to see the women calmly scoop up the spillage and re-use it. Another memory of those long ago Mondays is of how much I enjoyed the lunch and tea breaks, for they provided the opportunity for me to chat with the women and share their laughter.  However, one day a vision of unbelievable loveliness appeared when someone new came to work at, 'Roberts Cottage Jam.' Her name was Marianne and from that moment, every break time saw me making a beeline towards her alone.

Marianne Dickinson was her full name and I quickly fell madly in love with her.  She arrived one day, out of nowhere, looking splendid in jeans and a light blue blouse.  I'd never seen anyone look so lovely.  She had the most appealing smile and a manner that suggested a readiness to be amused. Her voice was like music and on that first day, as she asked us all our names, I realised she had the rare ability to make everyone feel special.  When one chap told her his name was Duncan, she immediately said with enthusiasm, 'Like King Duncan of Scotland!"  When he gloomily made some comment about growing up with jokes about being a 'Duncan's Walnut Whip,' she said, "Surely you'd rather be a King than a Walnut Whip, from now on you must think of yourself as a King."  She had the sunniest outlook on life I'd ever known and she made everyone feel good about  themselves.  Just to be near her became my only goal and I longed for Mondays to arrive so I could see her.  I even changed my planned annual holiday so I could spend two extra weeks working at the Jam factory, for being with her felt close to heaven on earth. However, heaven wasn't to come my way for some years, and never with Marianne, for one day she excitedly told me she was leaving.  I don't know if she was of Jewish origin but she was going to live in Israel and be part of a Kibbutz.  At that time I had no idea what a Kibbutz was but I knew that it was going to ruin my near perfect Mondays.  My unrequited Jam Factory romance was sadly over, before it began!

During my second year at Roberts Cottage Jam, one of the brothers asked me if I could take a week off from Jefferies to work with them.  He told me they needed extra help for a new cooling machine was being installed, custom made and costing him thousands of pounds.  I did as he asked and I watched its successful test run, using water instead of Jam.  I can't really describe the machine but it looked like some giant fairground ride, suffice to say it was enormous and would quickly cool thousands of tubs of hot jam at a time.  Of course the women were still needed to load and remove the pots of jam, and people like me were still required to carry the heavy trays back and forth.  Only now they would be carried straight to the despatch area and not to the previous cooling sight.  I can remember being quite excited as I strode up Woodhill Lane on the big day, the day when for the first time the machine would be used to cool and set thousands of tubs of hot jam.  The Jam was duly placed in the, 'Robert's Cottage,' pots and the girls began to load them on the huge cooler machine.  At the other end we waited for the tubs to reach our side which was when our hard work would begin.  All seemed to be going well and I watched each line of tubs on the machine, as they rose and fell like cars on a big dipper funfair ride.  Up ten feet, down ten feet, went the tubs as the women began to sing the Jam Factory anthem, '2 Days Monday.'  I glanced at the two smiling brothers who owned the business and their delighted faces told me all seemed to be going to plan!

I estimated that the machine was three quarters full when disaster struck and the lesson I learned for later life was as follows.  Leave nothing to chance for the tiniest detail can change success to disaster and their failure was catastrophic because of one simple mistake.  It began with an odd clunk which made the smiles on the brothers faces fade and this was followed by shouts of alarm as a couple of tubs of hot strawberry jam got stuck.  I watched in horror as other tubs collided with them and then dozens were being upturned and hot liquid jam was being spilt over all and sundry.  The sound of a machine in disarray could be heart as hundreds of tubs crunched together some ten feet up.  One of the brothers raced to turn of the machine and there was shouts of alarm from the women.  Amid the chaos I just stood there, helpless, a feeling I always hate but there was nothing I could do.  The new machine, so pristine clean just minutes before, was now covered in sticky strawberry jam and the floor was awash with it.  The brothers looked as if they might cry and some of the women did, their joyful singing had ceased and an eerie stunned silence ensued!

The jam factory never recovered from that disastrous day.  Their simple mistake was when building their custom made cooler, they used cold water in the pots for all the tests.  No one, not even those who designed it, had realised that hot jam would make each pot expand.  When that happened to so many tubs on that fateful morning, a log jam occurred, no pun intended, causing mayhem.  I know nothing of the legalities that would have followed, but I do know that within a few years, the jam factory of Shamley Green was gone.  The mistake had cost the brothers dearly and they were forced to take advantage of a Government grant and move to Northern Ireland.  I Google'd, 'Robert's Cottage,' to see if they were still in existence, but could find no trace of them, perhaps they called their Irish product, 'Kelly's Cottage Jam.'  

Sometimes I think of those Mondays and the extra money I was able to earn. Occasionally I recall the adoration I felt for the lovely Marianne and wonder if she kept her happy outlook on life, I hope she did. But the constant reminder I have of those days is when I'm food shopping and I pass the Jam counter.  It takes just one look at a jar of Lemon Curd and I begin to smile.  Suddenly I'm back with those women of the mid sixties, and in the same deep voice they once used I begin to sing those annoying words, "Tuesday is Lemon Curd," but unlike they used to almost fifty years ago, I try not to laugh like a lunatic!

 
Ken
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Re: (107) 'Tuesday Is Lemon Curd'

Ken
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This post was updated on .
This is a wonderful memory of almost fifty years ago when the future held such promise.  Its a story of love and laughter and of learning from other peoples mistakes.  Whatever you do in life, you should always write in the possibility of failure.