The muffin man used to come round ringing a bell. I never remember the tray of muffins on his head being covered, but it did not seem to matter, and anyway the air was fresh and clean. On Sunday, the fisherman came along with his white barrow, selling shrimps, winkles, cockles etc, which came straight from Southend. They were a lovely treat for Sunday tea, especially with celery – winkles for Dad and shrimps between the rest of us, and we would get a pin and take the winkles out for Dad, removing the black bit first. Mum would soak them in vinegar – it cleaned them and gave them more flavour.
Our favourite was, of course, the sweet man; he came round with a small handcart painted white, bearing such a variety of sweets. There was always a crowd round him because the big decisions had to be made: with only a penny or ha’penny – sometimes only a farthing – we had to decide what we could get most of with our money. There were coconut strips in pink or white, covered in sugar – but they weighed heavy; liquorice tit-bits, and we looked anxiously to see if any coconut ones had been put in our bag; acid drops that nearly took the roof off our mouths; liquorice boot laces, and so many more.
Every now and again a man would come round with a small carousel on a cart. The poor horse – it must have been a heavy burden to carry around the streets, and in return for empty jam jars we would have a ride on the carousel. The ragman would also come round shouting at the top of his voice, “Any old rags to sell.” If we were lucky, we got a couple of coppers or a goldfish swimming about in a little plastic bag of water. I do not know why, but the fish never seemed to live very long.