The fishman showed up regular as clockwork. A few honks of the horn was all it took to attract his regular customers. I always went out with Lew, to help him make his selection. The fishmonger’s thick cheeks, hands, and forearms were lobster-red. He always wore a floppy green jersey and a bright, starched white apron. The crustaceans were never weighed out, but rather scooped up in pint and half-pint tin mugs. Mum always requested pinky red prawns.
“Knock ‘em down,” Lew would say in his gravelly growl, and the fishmonger would reluctantly bash the tin mug on his makeshift counter, bending a sea whisker or two but allowing a little room for a few more prawns. The cockles were like very tiny clams and, along with winkles, were my favorites. Winkles, those very tiny black sea snails, were tasty but required patience and a little skill. Needles or hat pins would be distributed with saucers filled with vinegar and pepper. Using a needle, I would flip off the winkle cap then twist inside the shell and pull out a tiny crustacean. I preferred ‘winkling’ out a whole bunch at a time and making a sandwich.
“We didn’t always get prawns,” said Jessie, half remembering.
“No, WE didn’t.” Lew cast a knowing smile in my direction.