At a certain age and I’m not quite sure what age that is, conversation with friends over a glass of wine or two becomes nostalgic. TV and food of formative years is discussed – at length. At least I’m pretty sure this isn’t just me and my friends…
Sweets were definitely a big part of my growing up. I lived in a small village that at the time had 2 shops both with a wonderful array of sweets. Tearing to the shop to spend my 10p (yes it was that long ago) was always a serious and exciting business.
The choice was endless, and choosing sweets was not a process that could or should be rushed. Fortunately the shop keepers were of the same opinion and were very patient with children who spent a very long time deliberating over the rows of glass jars, brimming with sugary treats.
Tart red Cola chunks, with sharp corners to be chipped away at by determined crunching. Squat pineapple chunks, the sourness dampened by a gritty sugar coating. Rhubarb and custard lozenges, flavours defined by the division of dusky pink and buttery yellow. And the bon-bons, oh the bon-bons. Was there ever a more dangerous sweet? Heavy lumps of treacley toffee doused in powdery lemon, strawberry or white icing sugar . The irresistible urge to chew could result in a whole sweet becoming uncomfortably lodged in a molar, making the risk of tooth extraction a genuine possibility. But my absolute favourite: aniseed balls. A crisp burgundy bullet, sucked until they became grainy and then perfectly smooth leaving a troublesome brown seed to lose among tongue and teeth.
All this before I’d even glanced at the lower shelves. Small cardboard boxes of penny chews . Flying Saucers, unpalatable papery discs filled with a cursory shot of sherbet. Sweet cigarettes, pallid , slender sticks with a glowing fiery tip; very cool to 7 year olds eyes. Miniature milk bottles as smooth and creamy as a glass of the real thing. Lurid pink shrimps, flowery and aromatic . Lines of perfectly formed white chocolate mice, miniature ears and tails in tact, cloying and sickly on the palate. Glassy Traffic light lollies that magically changed from red to green the longer you sucked them. It wasn’t unusual to be left with a sticky bent paper stick that had collapsed under the weight of saliva and lolly. Barbie Pink bubble gums hidden in waxy, blue and yellow wrappers were perfect for blowing bubbles which quickly popped and collapsed.
Bon Bons weren’t the only sweets to approach with caution. Sherbet dib dabs and sherbet fountains brought a whole new set of dangers. Careless inhalation of sherbet from a liquorice stick could induce a bout of uncontrolled coughing within seconds. The liquorice stick alone could quickly transform a tongue from pink and healthy to black and withered.
Despite the vast choice, I invariably chose the same thing. Wrapped in the comfortable aroma of sugar I left the shop dipping my hand into a white paper bag filled with a quarter of aniseed balls.