FIONNA INWARD ALLEN
Ken Rangeley ran the newsagents in the small village I grew up in. We didn’t call his shop ‘the newsagent’ though; it was known only as ‘Rangely’s’. And even after he sold the business on, locals would still call it by his name.
His little shop took up the corner-bend in the village, just after the butchers but before the church. It had 2 large windows to the left of the door, showcasing his impressive range of magazines, toys, 10 denier tights and a few yellowing postcards.
The windows were separated by notice boards on either side – a place to look out for that Casio keyboard you’d always wanted.
Apart from the bus station where the 358 would pull in hourly (via cosmopolitan Stockport), Rangeley’s was the only other portal through which the big wide world crept in. For me, it did so in the form of magazines.
By the age of eight I was fanatical about chart music and every Wednesday-fortnight a glossy new edition of Smash Hits would be waiting, thanks to the subscription Ken had set up for me. A year or so later I remember sliding a copy of Just 17 onto the counter and him, noting the title, remarking on the readership getting younger. I probably blushed, but he didn’t mean to embarrass me; he just wasn’t that sort of bloke.
It was from him I bought my first Mizz magazine (‘Position of the Month’!) and also took vertiginous peeks at the porn magazines up there. I couldn’t quite believe breasts could be THAT big!
It was also the place I bought stickers. And boiled sweets, which were the backdrop to Ken himself. My favourites were Pineapple Drops, Cola Cubes and Mint Humbugs, in that order. My dad had a lifelong addiction to Aniseed Balls and I think it was via Ken he maintained this sugary habit.
Later, I did a newspaper round for Ken. The Highgate Road route, the steepest in the village, emerging 300m above sea level at the foot of Mount Famine. I recall my snowy winter rounds plugged into a Sony Walkman with Take That’s ‘Babe’ on repeat, followed by a terrible B-side called ‘All I Want Is You’. I think it was the video of Mark Owen trudging through the Siberian snow that made it both suitable and tolerable in its repetition.
I’m embarrassed to say I later stole from Rangeley’s. Circled by girls at school who stole from Tammy Girl on Saturdays, I must have felt a certain pressure to have stolen at least something. I opted for the most superfluous item in his shop; a ball of children’s putty. Subconsciously, I probably knew Ken wouldn’t punish me with any great severity.
In the early 80s Ken stocked a few postcards of our village taken by my mum and dad, just before the bypass cleaved its way through the then-fields.
He lived and breathed that newsagents for 42 years. I don’t recall ever seeing him in the post office or buying chops from the butcher. He was either behind the counter or swapping round notices on the boards. If I’d seen him in the library I probably wouldn’t have recognised him. I saw him out of context just once: he came to our primary school and played the spoons during assembly!
Ken was not a tall man. He wore a Failsworth mixed-wool Trilby on his head, a hat typically worn by farmers. His clothes were an amalgam of browns – cardigans and well-pressed trousers. He smiled and laughed a lot and had huge thick-rimmed glasses that failed to disguise his friendly, glittery eyes.
Ken Rangeley passed away on May 4th 2020