Memories Are Timeless Treasures Of The Heart

Most of our village shops had closed gradually over the years having been undercut and replaced by the more competitive supermarkets springing up on retail parks all around the surrounding area. At one time there had been a furniture shop, optician, cobblers, women’s outfitters and an elderly dapper gentleman called Mr Coles owned the sweet shop. I can still vividly recall the sparkling glass counters, polished wood and even now the smell of beeswax and cough candies will transport me back to that sunny little shop with the old bell over the door to alert him to a new customer. The row upon rows of tantalising sweetie jars full of pear drops, toffees, gobstoppers or winter mixture which were ceremoniously removed from the shelf and the tinkling sound they made as they were carefully measured out into the old-fashioned metal weighing scales. I remember being able to be able to buy two ounces of any sweets wrapped in a small triangular paper bag which accommodated my meagre weekly pocket-money. The more expensive and luxurious cellophane wrapped boxes of chocolates, adorned with floral pictures, were kept on the top shelf and no supermarket box to this day has ever been as desirable or as opulent.

In the days long before Health & Safety became paramount, come rain or shine, a huge fluffy ginger tom cat called Duke spent his days sleeping in a padded wicker basket in the corner of the shop stirring only to greet customers especially the children whose legs he would wrap himself around leaving them giggling with delight. A trip to the sweet shop was never the same for me unless I stopped to tickle him under the chin and listen to him purring like my Dad’s old lawnmower. He seldom left the shop although on occasional sunny days he would lie across the doorstep to ensure that he never missed welcoming a patron.

My mother’s birthday was imminent and it was inevitable that I wanted to give her one of Mr Cole’s boxes of chocolates and I reckoned that if I only bought my sweet rations every second week I could save enough with the rest of my pocket-money to buy a small box of chocolate truffles as a birthday present. So determined was I that I ventured into the shop one afternoon after school, my grubby ten-year old fingers counted out my pennies carefully onto the shop counter but Mr Coles said that unfortunately I hadn’t got enough but he could put the chocolates away for me until I did. We agreed that would be the best thing to do and each week I would call into the shop just to check that he still had my box of chocolates and hadn’t sold it to someone else. Of course, now that I’m all grown up I realise that few people would have indulged a young child with a smile, courtesy and endless patience.

Cycling through the village one afternoon after school with my friends I noticed a dirty orange fluffy mound at the side of the road. I stopped to investigate and was surprised to discover that it was Duke who sat trembling in the kerb, terrified of the passing cars, so I propped my bike up against the wall and scooped him up into my arms. He mewed piteously once he recognised a friendly face “It’s alright old fella, I’m taking you home” I reassured him. Duke allowed me to gently place him in the basket on the front of the handlebars of my bike and I was able to guide us both back to the comfort of the little shop with one hand on the handlebars and one gently restraining Duke.

Poor Mr Coles was beside himself with worry when I eventually arrived at the shop but his relief was all too evident when he realised I was returning his companion and it was worth every second of the cautious walk back to the shop. As I left them to enjoy their emotional reunion, Mr Coles hung the closed sign on the door and locked up for the afternoon overwhelmed to have his chum return home safe and well.

A week later as I’d saved enough to pay for the chocolates and I proudly called in with my pennies jingling in my pocket. Mr Coles smiled a greeting whilst disappearing to the stock room as I was reacquainting myself with Duke. He came back with chocolates beautifully wrapped and as I went to count my money onto the counter, he placed his hand across mine and said “Put that away young lady, your money’s no good here today”. Taking the pencil from behind his ear he wrote across the receipt with a flourish “Paid in full with grateful thanks from your friends”.

Of course, the shop has long ago been replaced with a fish & chip shop but the echoes of that one kind act have remained with me throughout my life and whenever I am given a box of chocolates I think of that little shop and my good friends Mr Coles and Duke.

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34 thoughts on “Memories Are Timeless Treasures Of The Heart

  1. beautiful and heartwarming post my friend…I have such places in the toybox in my mind. it’s hard not to feel melancholy when passing those treasured places that have gone on to become another place to go where nobody knows your name…but thankful for reminders like this one, of just how beautiful our world can be sometimes.

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      • I was just looking for a photo I remember taking of the long candy counter of the shop of my childhood…I’ve got a recent photo of the outside of the store, but cannot find the candy photo. grrrrrr…it was immediately brought to mind with your story, and I had wanted to share it with you. dang it all…sometimes I HATE technology! It LOSES things. 😉

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  2. Pingback: One stop on the memory train | 50 Shades of Gray Hair

  3. Oh dear, I’m in tears now (don’t tell anybody) such a touching story. Did you ever find out why Duke was away from the store and out lost by himself?
    Mr. Coles must have been so thrilled, I know I would have been.
    We had a cat named Duke, sadly we lost him way too soon in 1998.

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  4. I think, dear lady, that you’ve stirred quite a few tears with this one. So very, very sweet. Sad too that we have lost all these little shops for so-called convenience. ❤

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  5. An incredibly touching story – you both got what your hearts desired. I too remember a wonderful village sweetie shop and can almost smell those delicious smells still. Sadly no Duke in my shop but it did have a wonderful, old and patient man at the heart of it.

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  6. Sniff, sniff, can’t hold back the tears, a heartwarming story of a much gentler and kinder period. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful memory.

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  7. Dallas, nobody can tell stories like you – my heart went all fuzzy and warm. Duke, he knew that you where the right person with the right heart to bring him home, that’s why he let you put him in that basket.

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  8. The world needs more of you, Dallas! You create joy and hope in every post.

    “Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.” Henri-Frédéric Amiel

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  9. Oh, how beautiful! Brought a tear to my eye. You paint such a vivid picture of a beautiful time and place. Makes me think of Doc Martin and the shops in that pretty village. Or, buying sweeties at the local tuck shop after school. I still love milk bottles. … Things are certainly not what they use to be. I miss the humanity of the small retailers. Today’s big box stores are so impersonal and forgettable. I try not to go to them as much as possible, preferring to support local small business. … Thanks for sharing … 🙂

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  10. Sweet, sweet tale Dallas. Apart from your kindness and Mr. Cole’s, this brought back memories of small town living where everyone knew each other and being nice wasn’t such an effort.

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  11. Awww… that’s lovely, Dallas. When my children were young we had a summer cottage in a very small town on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There was a general store they could walk to alone, full of small candy treats, and it was the first time they had that level of independence, which meant a great deal to them. You brought that back for me on #ArchiveDay.

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      • Actually, I’m not the organizer. Vicky Charles – aka @SingleMAhoy – is. But I have been trying to get more folks from the U.S. involved, so we can lengthen the day and broaden the diversity of posts. As has @Morgandragonwillow. I think my next strategy is going to be to ask Brits to do at least one post before they go to bed on Friday night, so I can preschedule a few more for when _I_ am asleep and y’all are up and moving about. 😉 I do need to figure out how to balance reading and sharing with doing my own writing though! So that comes next. 😉

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