THE MUFFIN MAN

As children we thought the muffin man was wonderful; a cheery fellow as he walked through the village, ringing his black handbell and calling,

“Muffins and crumpets, two-a penny, thirteen for sixpence." (i.e. 6D about 21/2p)

Children ran excitedly to and fro; some went home for plates and money, or to neighbours and friends to accompany them to the muffin man. If you wanted two or four or an odd number, he would reach his hand up to the tray balanced on his head; but if several wanted say quite a number a dozen or more, he would lift the tray down and rest it on his knee and serve the muffins or crumpets. On the side of the tray hung a string of greaseproof, three cornered bags that he would put them in if you had not got a plate.

We were very intrigued with his hat – a flat straw one with a sort of cushion attached to the top to set the tray on. This would balance quite firmly and, only at odd times, did he touch it with one hand as he walked. When we had all bought, he covered the tray with a cloth, then walked away out of the village, but only as far as the Turnpike, where he would go into the Bear Inn to sell, and to oil his throat and loosen his tonsils – “Just medication,” was his explanation. But we scampered off home to toast and eat our crumpets or muffins – smothered with many different spreads: lard; margarine; butter or jam, either one or sometimes two perhaps. Some added salt, some sugar, all according to taste.

The muffin man only came in the winter time, and was a very welcome part of our village life when the dark dull days around Christmastime came.

The other pedlar we had was Juniper Jack.