Geoffrey Shryhane's My World

The scales here in the bathroom at No 5 have a cruel streak. I stand on them, watch the wheel whizz round and then read my weight.

Wednesday, 14th September 2016, 5:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th September 2016, 3:59 pm
Geoffrey Shryhane

That weight is a blatant lie of course. Well, the scales have been wonky for years. I’d replace them, but the new ones may tell me even bigger lies.

I’m 10st 3 and that’s that.

But I’m delighted to report that the most famous weighing scales which were part of the Old Arcade for many years have gone on show in an exhibition showing extraordinary and everyday items at the Museum of Life in Library Street.

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The jockey scales were greatly loved by Wiganers who after parking their bones on the scales were given a little cardboard ticket with their weight written in pencil.

When the arcade closed around 1973, the scales became a big attraction at the Wigan Pier tourist attraction.

Apparently they’ve been in storage for a while but are now on view once more.

The scales were owned by the local Mr and Mrs Rudd and I’m glad to report that former Wigan rugby league’s Kris Radlinski is their grandson.

Kris rang “My World” some months ago, asking if we knew just where the “family” scales had ended up.

The mystery was solved when the people at Wigan Museum reported that not only did they have them, but that they were to be put on show.

The good news is that Mrs Rudd has been to see the iconic old scales and recalled many memories from yesteryear when the jockey scales were loved by Wiganers.

May I be the first to wish you season’s greetings? I ask because in the last seven days, Christmas 2016 has been rumbling to life.

The twinkle of tinsel made itself known when two of those festive catalogues with hundreds of over-priced presents you don’t want and never have wanted dropped through the letterbox.

Both were charity-based, so I felt obliged to thumb through them before consigning them to the blue bin.

I felt sure that if the stuff was reasonably priced, they’d rake in the cash. But a trapper’s hat for £90 was, I thought, beyond most pockets.

The papers are bursting with maxi and mini breaks to the Christmas markets both at home and abroad.

One was for the Bath Christmas market coupled with “the Blenheim Palace saver”. It did seem a bargain - £99. Seeing the Palace in all its festive glory almost had me hunting for my cheque book.

Christmas cards are in one shop in the town centre and I can report there were no shortage of buyers … mostly older ladies who like to keep their lives totally organised.

More than cards, many people buy their calendars in September.

Well don’t forget there are all those birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions to be transferred.

It was one of those rainy, depressing Mondays. Enthusiasm has flown out of the window. Folks feel stuck at a loose end.

Only one thing for it – switch on the telly.

“Oh no” I hear “My World” readers gasping. “Anything. Anything but NOT day time television.”

Rubbish. It does a great job filling many hours for folks who can’t get out and about any more. Anyway after munching on yesterday’s leftovers (is there anything as delicious as a fry up?) I flicked through 100 channels and plumped for Bargain Hunt, the show where stall holders sell a whole range of new and old tat… sorry I mean rare antiques. Suddenly an item flashed onto the screen which took me back six decades. Was it something beautiful and attractive? Was it a polished gem or precious bauble? It was none of these things. It was, in fact, an old tin bath with a price tag of £95. Just like the one my two aunties at Hindley used every Friday night, emptied and then hung up in the backyard.

It was easy to recall those baths in use – modesty preserved by towels draped around clothes maidens. Steaming hot water. The smell of that scented soap, a present at Christmas. Otherwise carbolic.

Bath night was a real palaver. For after aunties had emerged from the waters, it was the turn of the kids to jump in. And finally, there was just enough dark water to give the dog a swill. I tell you not a word of a lie.

But come the new world. Millions of terraced houses bit the dust. New houses have that ultimate luxury – the built-in baths and the tin baths are consigned to history.

But believe it or not, some folks in brand new council houses still used their tin baths. Old habits died very hard indeed. I doubt if many of those tin bath disposers from another life could have imagined the tin troughs being worth a hundred quid all these years later.

The question remains – do people buy them for bathing purposes or as garden attractions?

Read more of Geoffrey’s memories and musings in the Wigan Observer out every Tuesday.