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The village shop in Hale:

Chris and I moved in to the village shop in Hale on the 31st December 1980 with high hopes.

The turnover of the shop in the last year of Mrs Long’s trading was £86,400. The shop was of the style of a little ‘olde worlde’ village shop where you entered and were met with ‘counter service’. You asked for the items you required, the shop assistant fetched the items, you paid and left. Only a very few customers ever browsed the shop.

On Thursday morning one of us would drive around the village to collect order books from some of our customers who rarely (or never,) visited the shop. Our early closing day was Thursday afternoon and this time was spent making up the orders for delivery on the Friday morning. This caused problems in itself in that Friday was our busiest day of the trading week and we were one person down because of the deliveries.

We made no changes to the layout of the shop for about eight months, we just observed everything (didn’t want to upset anyone), by which time we were absolutely run-ragged trying to keep up with things so we decided to go open plan and invite our customers to browse for their shopping. Things took off! Our turnover went up in leaps and bounds. Our regular customers were remarking ‘oh, didn’t know you stocked this that and the other’.

It took us three years to reach a turnover of £250,000 by which time we had made it very much open plan so that customers browsed for what their shopping. We added a delicatessen and health foodstuffs. We were working all hours. Sadly our personal relationships were not going too well and Chris decided to move out and start her new life in the Telford area. This was an amicable move and it was agreed that I would eventually sell the shop and that we would split the proceeds.


Whilst we were making up our orders on a Thursday afternoon in May 1984 someone tapped on the window and said ‘Smoke coming from your roof!’ The cottage in which we lived was attached to the shop and was a thatched roof. We confirmed that there was a wisp of smoke coming from the thatched roof and could see that we had a fire to contend with. We immediately set in motion and evacuation procedure and called the fire services. For some reason we always had a hose attached to the outside tap, this was usually used to rinse the path down and wash the cars (rarely). Today it saved valuable time by being ready and connected. I climbed onto the roof and played water on the burning thatch. This reduced it to a smouldering area and somewhat contained what would otherwise have soon become an inferno. Thatch is designed to repel water and it does that very efficiently. Even after weeks of rain it is only ever the top inch of thatch that is wet, all the under layers are completely dry. Thus it is difficult to get water to go down into the thatch to put out the smouldering straw.

After a few minutes the fire brigade arrived and took over. They cut a fire-break through the thatch right over the house to isolate the greater part of our (and next-door’s) roof. The burning part was only at one end. Within a fairly short time the fire was out. The amount of thatch removed was the fire-break (about 18” wide) over the roof, front to back and the end section for about 6’. The straw pulled off by the fire brigade completely blocked the road for about 100’ to a depth of 6’ and the whole of the back garden was straw to a depth of about 8’.

We were lucky as a local farmer friend brought his hay cart up and with the help of his hands and other volunteers the whole lot was loaded and a few trips made to his farm. The only was to get rid of it was to burn it - woof! In a few seconds it was all gone.

We had a temporary roof for a week or so until a local thatcher came along and put a new thatched roof on for us all paid from our insurance policy. Nobody was hurt, we lost almost nothing to fire/smoke/water damage, we were lucky!

I stayed on for another 18 months or so and eventually found a buyer. Chris and I had met other partners by then and it was time to move on.

The next part of the story can be found under the page Racal 2

Work in progress…