RJ Weaver: Raspberry Jam and Pickles

review bob x1 cong

It’s always hard reviewing locally produced books: in this case it’s a labour of love, 24 pages and written and drawn by the author. The potential for it being not very good is high, in which case this write-up would have said it’s out and it’s got 24 pages.

Happily for all concerned it’s very good and — at one point — so moving the reader might even develop a lump in their throat. Even the zillion-selling 50 Shades never got a lump in anyone’s throat.

RJ Weaver is Bob Weaver, of Weavercraft in Victoria Mill, and after reading this, some customers will look at him with a new sense of respect. The book tells of his early life in Congleton, in the early 1950s. His dad is a troubling and largely absent figure, so it’s left to his mother to bring up her six kids, and times were clearly hard. They could have been harder but people, as they say, rallied round and helped out. A local butcher sold young Bob half a crown’s worth of meat every week; as Bob says, it was probably not the best of meat and was what he couldn’t sell but it was also probably worth more than half a crown. This unofficial income support was offered all the way through his early childhood until the butcher felt the kids were big enough, whereupon young Bob suddenly had some idea of what had been going on. Similarly, his first job, working for a market stallholder, who always made sure he was fed and watered before being sent home.

As well as the various good deeds, the book recalls a lot of old Congleton. The stories were written for Congleton Art Society Christmas parties, to be read aloud, and that’s how they read, a Congletonian spinning yarns of his youth and remembering people and places. It may only be 24 pages long but it feels longer, because the accounts are packed with detail, and you have to keep stopping to think, whether it’s about sights and sounds or the life people led, which was much harder than now.

We told a pensioner about this book, and its memories — along with the Vera Lynn CD we’d given her — prompted her to recall the hardships of life in Stoke, when people had money for rent and food and no more. (We assume she meant “women had money for rent and food and no more”, because, as with Bob’s own father, there were men with money in their pockets, who spent it enriching local landlords).

All the good deeds dealt out to young Bob in turn made him kind, and it’s a rather stunning act of kindness that may well leave a lump in the reader’s throat.

Warmly recommended; it may appeal to older readers more, but it’s a good read and worth the £5 cost.

Raspberry Jam and Pickles can be bought at Weavercraft (Mon-Sat, 10-5) or Congleton Tourist Information Centre, priced £5. Bob promises another six books.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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