February 14, 2009

Ross Eldridge

—Photo by Ross Eldridge

The Staff of Life

I live a few doors down from the only real bakery in Amble. There is another chain bakery outlet further down which has goods delivered each morning, brought in from who-knows-where. They have no aroma though. Lost somewhere on the motorway? Our minimart has bread and bakery items trucked in as well, for some reason most of these come from France. "Consumers please note this product may contain traces of frog and/or snail." Our nearest supermarket, ten miles inland, has fluffy white breads if you like that sort of thing. I don't. It's not even fit to chum fish or feed the jackdaws.

I like a locally baked (just this morning) (still warm from the oven) (fragrant) (soft) (crispy crust) (tasty) (whole wheat) (reasonably priced) loaf. I buy a small loaf twice a week, and have the counter girl slice it in medium slices, which are the thinnest (go figure) one can get nowadays. I pay £0.85 for a loaf. A large loaf to last seven days would work out less expensive, but I like the freshness of two smaller loaves, one on a Friday, one on a Tuesday.

My grandmother, the one who lived much of her life in Bermuda, bought a loaf of whole wheat bread, thicker slices than I prefer, once a week. Actually, because the Crow Lane Bakery was not close enough for Grandmother to walk to once she became truly elderly (she lived to be 104 and ate bread till the end), I was the bread-buyer. The Crow Lane Bakery was situated in the middle of a traffic nightmare and I hated trying to get to it by vehicle or on foot. However, I do understand my grandmother's dedication to the small-town bakery product.

Amble's Bread Bin Bakery is smaller than Bermuda's Crow Lane. The bread is better. Like the Crow Lane, there are other items: Sausage rolls, scones, pies, fairy cakes, fruit loaves, sandwiches, waters and fruit drinks and colas, honey, jams and marmalades, and gingerbread cookies, and more.

I sometimes get a sausage roll for lunch, or a prawn sandwich, and an orange drink. If I'm having company I'll buy some plain cake and a Victoria sponge. But I'm really a bread customer. The girls know what I'll be wanting, I think. I should ask for something completely different: Perhaps a tea cake for toasting. I don't have much time left to bamboozle them with that request, the building the Bread Bin is located in was sold to a developer, the new owners did not want the business, and the employees were given a week's notice.

I shall miss the counter staff, certainly, but it is the small town, right-out-of-the-oven whole wheat loaf on a Tuesday and Friday that I shall really miss. My Dad had a bread-making machine at the end of his too-short life (he'd have been my present age when he got it). If I could get the recipe for the Bread Bin's whole wheat loaf, and got a machine...

I wonder. I'm not very mechanical, but necessity being...


Ross Eldridge lives in a tiny North Sea town on the coast of England near the Scottish border. He reads a good deal, has a go at photography, and researches family history. Ross has written a weekly newspaper column, but is now content to blog. His blog is called Barking Mad in Amble by the Sea, and it is dedicated primarily to his little dog, Cailean.

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