I get up at 7am. After a light breakfast - I love a fry-up, but only at weekends, I'll drive to the abattoir, load up the van with a couple of sides of pig, beef or whatever we need, and drive four miles to the shop in Masham. The shop opens at 8am and by the time I get there, the lads have got their blue and white aprons and smocks on. Keith and Kevin have worked for me for 20 years. Keith looks after the front shop where we sell the meat, our new range of home-made pies and sausage rolls - Anthony is moving us into pies - packets of Paxo stuffing and ready-made Yorkshire pudding. Kevin is second in command. The three lads who work in the back shop bone meat for freezer orders and catering orders, make pies and sausages and organise private killings for local farmers. Two of them spend half of the week in the slaughterhouse. In the back, they listen to Radio 1, which I don't appreciate. There's no music in the front, but there are posters - pictures of different cuts of lamb, pork and beef published by the Meat and Livestock Commission. You'd be amazed at how many young people don't know what a piece of topside looks like.
It gets busy by 9am. The mince, chops, stewing steak and select cuts for the window display have to be chopped and prepared - folks today like the top cuts and trimmed meat. In my father's day, people bought meat on the bone and cheap cuts. No one's interested in neck of lamb now, or rabbit, tripe, or faggots, and all meat has to be boned. It's a much more specialised job. We sell ox tongue, but hearts, cheeks and livers are diced up for dog meat. We don't sell veal - it's too expensive.
Keith organises the window display and we always have a special offer. Mince and stew tend to sell at the beginning of the week, chicken in the middle and steaks and joints of beef at the weekend. The locals are traditional meat-and-two-veg people and most still have a Sunday roast, although some will go for a drive or to a pub for lunch. People's habits are changing. There are vegetarians in Masham, but just who they are, I don't know.
It's not easy being a butcher today. My father didn't have supermarkets or vegetarians, or television programmes on turkey farms or BSE, come to that. Beef sales dipped on the first two Saturdays in December after the last BSE scare and much of my job is reassuring customers. We handed out leaflets on BSE and I even wrote a letter to the Darlington and Stockton Times. Butchers like ours are getting thin on the ground, but we're fortunate to be where we are - out on a bit of a limb. People rely on us.
Lunch starts at 12.30pm. We don't shut the shop. The breaks are staggered. I have a pie and work through mine. The lads can buy pies and sausage rolls at cost price, but they tend to go out. Business is slack after lunch, but picks up when the mothers collect their children from school. We close at 5pm, and the meat is put away at around 4.30pm. All the lads muck in to swill down the floors, axes and knives with boiling water. I get home at around 5.30pm and make a few phone calls, organising slaughtering for next week. I have supper at about 6.30pm. If it's Monday, we'll have the Sunday joint cold. Tuesday is lamb chops, pork on Wednesday, chicken portions on Thursday and Friday, steak on Saturday, and on Sunday, my favourite - roast beef. I'm looking forward to passing the business on to my son in a few years. I don't have a grandson yet, only a granddaughter. I've never thought about her taking it on. I am a Yorkshireman, after all.Reuse content