Back in the second half of the 70s and first half of the 80s, I was living in London bringing up two kids with my partner (not their birth mother). We both worked long hours, but Saturdays were sacrosanct. We had a routine.
We would skip breakfast apart from a coffee and a cigarette for me (I stopped long ago!) and head out shopping. First to the bakery. A real bakery where they baked stuff. We bought bread - wonderful proper bread five minutes from home. Then we would head to meet with Norman.
Norman was a butcher from a long line of butchers. Two of his brothers were butchers; another was a farmer. Lovely man. He looked like a proper butcher. Not fat, but healthy and with shining eyes. He knew meat and taught me a lot. He always had time to answer my dumb questions.
As the years went by, I think he began to respect me for my discerning attitude to meat purchasing. When I went into his shop, where he butchered everything himself, no one else, not his apprentices, were allowed to serve me. His elder brother retired from his shop, but would help Norman out at busy times. Even, he was not allowed to serve me.
One Christmas season he made a bunch of beef chipolata sausages, some of which I bought and loved. No one else did, so he didn't make them again, except for making a batch every Christmas just for me!
He taught me the delights of breast of lamb, which I had never considered before, but now ranks among my favourite meats.
He would be delighted when I asked him to bone a duck for me or perform other knife skills that were beyond me. He would grin when I asked for bits of animals that no one else would ask for, then send one of his confused apprentices to either find it in the fridge or, more likely, dig it out of carcase.
He happily supplied me with caul - impossible to find in the "super"markets.
His younger brother, the farmer, would occasionally shoot wild rabbits and send to Norman, who would immediately call me to tell me. Yes, we had exchanged phone numbers.
Some time in the mid-80s, Tesco's opened a supermarket a few yards from his shop and the rot set in. Plastic wrapped unidentifiable meat and untrained staff on minimum wage became the norm.
Norman battled on for a year or two, but in the end had to give up and retire early. A year later he died.
His old shop is now a tanning studio.