‘Morning Linda,’ said Carole. ‘I’ll have a small white tin loaf please.’

There was no real need for Carole to ask for anything. She had been Samsons’ first customer every morning for longer than Linda had worked there. First in every day asking for the same ‘small white tin loaf’; rarely giving up much in the way of conversation. Initially, Linda had tried to engage in small talk but had given up a number of years back. Her vain attempts to chat about the weather or the state of the trams rarely got much response. The only time Carole had started a conversation was when Jim, the baker whose name was above the door, had gone on holiday.

On the morning after the first day of Jim’s holiday, Carole had mildly rebuked Linda for not telling her that Jim was away and that a different baker had baked the bread: ‘It’s not that I don’t like the bread from the relief baker, it’s just that I do not like surprises.’

Now, Linda, who herself couldn’t tell the difference between either baker’s wares, was sure to let Carole know the week before Jim went on holiday.

Linda passed over the loaf wrapped in tissue paper. Carole passed back 73 pence, put the loaf in her plaid shopping back and walked back home.

Back in the kitchen of her mid-terrace, Carole turned on the gas of the grill, held her finger on the ignition and watched as the flame took, as always, on the fourth click of the spark. She left it to warm while she put fresh water in the kettle and cut three slices from the loaf: the crust (or the ‘heel’ as Carole remembered her old Nana Macintosh from Scotland calling it) she spread with butter and ate while watching the other two slices toast on the grill.

When the toast was finished, it too was buttered, then had blackberry jam applied.

Carole sat down at the small kitchen table with her tea and toast and looked out the window. Two sparrows were stood on the bird table pecking over yesterday’s bread.

Aaron Gow is 30. He has lived in Radcliffe for a couple of years, but lived in the Manchester area for five years.

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