Beyond Mr. Chookie was the fish man, Mr. Scales, as my mother used to call him, although at the time her pun was lost on me. Above his stall ran the legend “fresh daily from Fleetwood, Lancs”, referring to the port just north of Blackpool where much of Britain’s catch was landed. That his stall was only open Tuesdays and Thursdays didn’t seem to matter. Whether it was due to her upbringing in Blackpool where there is – rightfully – a great deal of local snobbery about the quality of the fish that goes into their fish 'n’ chips, or whether because of an innate suspicion of fishmongers, my mother always eyed Mr. Scales’s wares closely, casting a wary eye over his glossy fish, as if trying to discern if there was anything untoward hiding among the cockle-shells.
Because we rarely had fish except on Fridays when we weren’t allowed anything else – even in our lunchboxes at school we had to mark the end of the week with evil-smelling “salmon paste” sandwiches – and because Mum worked a full day on Thursdays, whatever we bought on Tuesdays had to last on ice in the bottom of the fridge until then (freezing fish made it taste all woolly, she always said), so freshness was absolutely crucial otherwise it/we wouldn’t survive.
Typically, the fish was cod, but often halibut or hake did service in the flaky white fish department. This was usually broiled and served with oven-baked chips, since as a nurse my mother couldn’t countenance deep-frying at home lest it give the townies the impression she was a hypocrite in her dietary exhortations, and homemade mushy peas, flecked with mint and tangy with a splash of malt vinegar. Apart from a distinctly nontraditional and rather dodgy-looking “curry” she made every so often, Friday night fish suppers were my dad’s favorite – he still demands it to this day and he is about as agnostic an Anglican as you’ll find.