When I was a young boy we didn't have central heating in our old Victorian school house. In wintertime, there'd often be ice on the inside of our single-glazed upstairs windows and the linoleum on the floor felt freezing cold to my naked feet when I leapt out of bed on a January morning.
Dad made the fire downstairs at the crack of dawn. I would usually wake to the sound of him raking out the fireplace below. The coal was delivered to our coal house every fortnight by Tony Chappell whose yard was situated between our East Yorkshire village and the next one - Brandesburton.
The coal was shovelled from his old lorry into thick black hemp sacks which Mr Chappell carried on his right shoulder with ease. His face and arms were always blackened with coal dust when he called round.
Back then very few villagers had their own cars. This meant that there was money to be made from door-to-door deliveries. Of course we had bottled milk delivered to our doorstep every morning but there was also a pop man who brought various varieties of fizzy drink on his lorry. You got money off if you returned bottles from the previous week. My favourite flavours were dandelion and burdock and sarsaparilla. There was no Coca Cola.
There was a butcher's van and every Friday a fish man opened the rear doors of his Morris van to reveal cod, a set of weighing scales, herring, prawns and our mother's favourite - finny haddock which she boiled in milk with a knob of butter. It was our staple meal on Friday evenings - with mashed potato and peas.
Sometimes a troupe of gipsies would pass through the village like visitors from another planet. We marvelled at their rags and exotic appearances. They had no motorised vehicles just unkempt horses to pull their covered wagons. In summertime, some of their sunbrowned and unwashed children would be barefoot.
The gipsies didn't talk to us and we didn't talk to them. We just observed each other with curiosity but sometimes single gipsy folk would call at our house selling clothes pegs and suchlike and there'd be occasional tramps too - men of the road with boots falling apart. They looked like scarecrows. I remember that Mum was always very kind to the gipsies and the tramps too. She'd buy the clothes pegs and the wildflower posies and she'd give those ragged men mugs of tea and ginger biscuits and chat pleasantly to them before they carried on walking their roads to nowhere.
Nowadays you don't see tramps in the countryside any more and the gipsies of yore have Toyota trucks and long white caravans with calor gas canisters outside. But they are still objects of fear and curiosity to those of us who choose to live in houses. I believe that the gipsies - now often referred to as"travellers" - call the rest of us "gorgers" because we over-consume. I think they might be right about that.