Horse shite. It’s a valuable commodity for growers of rhubarb. To think that something so delicious could be nourished by something that came out of the back end of a horse. Nowadays like everything else, you have to pay for it. That’s capitalism for you. You even have to pay for the shite that falls from the arse of a beast. When I was a girl, the streets were paved with horse shite. At the age of six, I had never been to the seaside, but I knew how to use a bucket and spade. Whenever a horse clip-clopped its way down our street, I was out there, with the other kids, collecting any deposits that had been left. And horses came down our street pretty often. The milkman, the rag and bone man, the hot bread man, the dustman, the chimney sweep, the ruddy lot of em, all with carts pulled by horses that regularly needed to move their bowels.
It wasn’t a disgusting thing to do. Fresh horse shite doesn’t even stink., its just hay and natural goodness. Me and the other little uns would collect as much as we could, and take it down to the Allotments which were springing up everywhere since the war. We could swap it for sweets, postcards or maybe even the occasional farthing, which we would take straight down to the sweet shop. Motor cars were pretty damn rare in those days. New fangled technology. Only a few toffs had ‘em really. We hardly ever saw them down our way at all.
But it was in 1920 that the coppers in London were issued with motor cars instead of horses, and the famous Flying Squad was born. They had the idea that horses were not good enough for a modern police force and tried and phase them out. Silly beggars. I suppose the kiddies in London still had a plentiful supply of shite for their little enterprises. But anyone with any sense could see the way the wind was blowing. There might still have been horse shite in the roads for those who went looking for it, but before too long they would have been running the risk of getting run over while they shovelled it into their buckets. As far as I am concerned, it marked the beginning of the end for rhubarb and custard as a great British afters, and marked the rise of crudities such as Manchester tarts and spotted dicks, things which are better avoided in my book.
Auntie Doris’s Pop Pick of 1920: “I belong to Glasgow” by Will Fyffe. Not that we ever heard it in my house when I was a girl. But years later it was one that my Raymond and his pals used to enjoy singing when they had had a few. There was a drop of Scottish blood in any of them but I think it sort of stood for “I’m a no nonsense salt of the earth, unlike those Southern softies” Which is fair enough really.