Monday, 3 June 2013

Whaddya fink I am Ricky, some kind of double yolker?

Well, that weekend disappeared with a bit of a whoosh didn't it? If I had hair, it would still quite literally be blowing in the wind of the rapidly receding Sunday night.

Had a nice barbeque, drank some beer, spent an amount of quality time with the family, enjoyed the sun.

All in all, a decent couple of days was had by all, culminating in a selection of real ales in the pub last night with a select few friends and the conversation, as it so often does, turned to having parts of your body chopped off at random.

I didn't start it, there was something about a cow-race and a darts match between people with Special Olympics levels of missing fingers. So I pulled out a story about my maternal Grandfather, which I then realised I hadn't told you.

So sit back, relax, turn the big dial on the front of your Speedos to 'Smug' and listen to a few tales of my Grandad... Frank 'The Butcher'.

Now let's get a few things straight first.  He wasn't an East End Gangster - Although some of the stories might make you think otherwise.  He was a great bloke, and could make anatomically correct, highly polished, farm animals out of pipe-cleaners, cotton wool and glue.  He really was a butcher/Slaughterman and had his own shop in what was the Open Market in Derby (Now, oddly, the Magistrate's Court).


So, the story that started this all off in the first place.

A woman came into the shop one day and asked for a half-dozen lamb chops, and he replied 'I'm sorry madam, but this is a chemist'... Actually, no he didn't, I just added that for a little light relief.  He actually said, 'I haven't got any ready, I'll have to make you some.'  So, he wandered to the store and got out a side of lamb, plonked it on the block and cut off all the bits that weren't the rack (of ribs).

At this point, when he was telling this story, he would hold his hand up and do a sort of Vulcan salute and say 'Now you have to remember, lamb ribs are about as thick as your thumb' - So bear that in mind, it comes in handy in a moment.

He had a system, where he would lay his hand, flat on the lamb's ribs, measure out a rib with his thumb, move his hand, and bring the cleaver down.  Measure, move, chop, measure, move, chop.

You can see where this is going, right?

So, he was halfway down the rack and the customer made a comment about how surprisingly temperate it was for the time of year or how she's just paid a shiny tuppence for a Marcel Wave, which broke his concentration for a second.

His next cycle went: Measure, move, chop, measure, chop, move, OhMyGodWhereDidAllThatBloodComeFrom, IsThatMyThumb?I'veCutMyThumbOffArrgh!

He packed it in ice, and got taken to the hospital, where they sewed it back on, although as this was the late forties, he never got much of the use of it back.

Cool scar though, a white ring, all the way around his thumb - He used to wave it at me, his 'Frank-enstein' thumb.


Those of you who have ever been an apprentice, or have been the newbie (as I believe that it's termed now) may have been the butt of one of the many traditional 'pranks' in the workplace.  Generations of people have been sent out to get some tartan paint, or a new bubble for a spirit level, or my own personal favourite - One that I have suffered myself, being told to go to the stores for 'a long weight'... Whereby I mooched around for an hour and a half, being sniggered at, before realising that it was, in fact, 'a long wait.'

Anywho, it seems that the wonderful world of butchery has its own traditions.  One of which is the legend of the 'Electric Fat', which went a little something like this.

It is said, that very occasionally, a cow can build up a static electrical charge in its suet (The hard fat that collects around the loin) by constantly rubbing up against the other cows in the pen, in the manner of rubbing a balloon against your jumper. With the hilarious consequence of making your hair stand on end when you touched it.  If you found a cow with Electric Fat, it showed you were a real butcher, you would be bought a pint, and back-slapping would ensue.

So, one day, Grandad Frank's apprentice was asked to check some cow carcasses that had just been skinned.  He gave them a once-over for any obvious blemishes etc, or bits that needed trimming off and pronounced them fine.

'Hey,' Called Frank, whilst attracting the attention of the rest of the gang, 'Have you checked them for Electric Fat?'

'No,' replied the apprentice, 'How do I do that?'

So, Frank showed him how you firmly grasped the carcass, one hand either side of its 'waist' (They were hanging up), and explained that if the fat was, indeed, electric, then he'd get a mild static shock.

He grasped the first one - expecting a shock, nothing, the second, nothing, as he grabbed the third one, Frank touched an electric cattleprod to the carcass.  Seemingly, the jolt knocked the poor apprentice onto his backside, but as promised, it did make his hair stand on end.


As Frank was a registered slaughterman, he often used to be called upon by local vets to 'Deal with' large farm animals that were in pain or had become unmanageable and were therefore a threat to their owners, and anyone else stupid enough to try and share a field with them. Dealing with them mostly involved them being introduced to a significant amount of lead shot at fairly short range, accompanied by a loud bang.

In the early 40's, he went to a local farm to deal with a bull, which had become... upset... And needed to join its ancestors in the big rolling field in the sky.  He met with the vet who said that he'd considered administering a lethal injection, but that idea was discarded when it was plain the animal in question had, as the vet put it, 'Gone completely bloody loopy,' and the chances of him getting in the field with it to administer it was the same as 'a snowball's chance in hell.'

So Frank took aim at the bull, who at the time was doing a seemingly excellent spinney-roundey rodeo impression, and squeezed off a shell, which hit the bull amidships and had no effect.

Well, I say it had no effect... That might not be strictly true.  As the bull had previously been as mad as a binliner full of camels, it was now all that and in pain too.  So it turned and ran straight at its attacker (And the rapidly defecating vet).

'Shoot it!' Shouted the vet, hiding behind Frank, who was making sure that the butt of the shotgun was pressed deep into his shoulder.

'Shoot it! Shoooot it!' Repeated the vet, only with slightly more urgency, as the bull closed on their position, showing no signs of stopping at the fence.

'Wait.' Said Frank, calmly.  The vet was now so worried that he had run out of his own pants to wet, and was having a go at wetting Frank's.

'ShootItShootItShootItShootItShootIt!' Urged the vet, as the bull was now close enough to be able to smell his fear... In fact, a lot of people in the surrounding area could smell his fear, for a number of days afterwards.

Just before the bull reached the fence, Frank shot it right between the eyes. and it dropped like a stone.  His recollection of the incident was so crisp that he claimed to be able to remember seeing both its ears spiralling off in slow motion in different directions.

Weeks later, he had a visit of a 'Man From The Ministry', threatening him with all sorts of awful things because the leather from that particular herd had been earmarked to make parachute harnesses, and a brave British Soldier might now not be able to jump out of an aeroplane and single handedly win the war against Jerry because that bull had been shot rather than having a lethal injection administered.

Frank referred him to the world's bravest veterinary surgeon, and advised that if he didn't leave the shop toute-suite, he'd gut him like a fish.


And on a more horrific note, remember that story about my Dear Old Mother (When she was still alive) trying to snap my fragile mind by levering her false eye out all over the place?  Well, that wasn't the first completely mental thing she'd ever done.  It seems that she started early.

Frank used to get his meat from a multitude of sources.  One of these included gentlemen who would occasionally drop around the back of the shop with a shotgun and a bag of rabbits, or pheasants.  As these were not covered by 'rationing', he could do a roaring trade in them so he paid a premium, which in turn meant that he got a lot of them sometimes.

My Mum, who was but a young slip of a girl at the time, used to play with the dead bunnies (Wait for it, we haven't got to the shock reveal yet).  And would dress them up in pretty dolls clothes and take them for walks in a big, old, White-Cross pram.  Now, the people of the Market were used to seeing her with her bunnies and gave her a cheery wave as she strolled past, but customers were often 'Taken aback' when they went to stroke the cute little bunnies and found them to be stone cold and very, very, dead.

(Those of you of a fragile disposition, turn away now)

Some were even more... Erm... I hesitate to use the words 'Freaked Out' because it wasn't in use at the time, and I'm a stickler for authenticity, but it will have to do.  When one accidentally saw her changing their clothes and started to scream uncontrollably.

Because they had been skinned, and the only parts of their fragile little bodies that still had fur on, were their heads and their paws.

And yes, she'd skinned them herself.

Explains a lot about me, right?

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