Archive for the ‘Confectionery’ Tag
“What’s that all over your desk?”
“What does it look like?!”
“Well… Liquorice allsorts er; obviously…”
“Literal and correct – as always… you never disappoint.”
“Okay, where’s this going exactly?”
“Ah; I’m just reminiscing – that’s all.”
“Never had you down as someone who was remotely sentimental – let alone a sweets kind of person. Always the next deal: coffee; more than the odd cigarette… oh; and plenty of booze after work of course – but sweets? Nah…”
“These represent a turning point in my life if you must know.”
“What… remembering when you first ate them as a kid?”
“No… first day on this job I was given a lesson in economics at a nearby bar by the late, great Marcus Cousins – dealer extraordinaire and all-round great white shark in the murkiest of waters. Biggest there was in his day. And it just so happened that in imparting his considerable wisdom he used a bag of Liquorice allsorts.”
“They were to hand… he stole them from a kid on his way to work… the corner shop was fresh out of Jelly babies… How the hell should I know?!”
“Hang on… Cousins? Bit before my time – I was still at Uni deciding what my career options were…. but wasn’t he responsible for that insider dealing scandal? If I remember he nearly brought down a Tory Minister and a couple of blue chip companies…”
“He did… shafted them all – and the Minister’s wife for good measure…”
“Classy guy then?”
“Like I say the late, great…”
“Right… fled to some Pacific island dictatorship with no extradition treaty and oodles of other people’s cash. A real crook by all accounts. Let me guess… What did he see in you?”
“So he taught you everything he knew with his bag of Liquorice allsorts?”
“Not quite taught… I didn’t need that much…”
“Of course not – silly me: as if?”
“He mentored me if you must know… you’ll understand that given all those corporate bonding exercises you insist upon going on – he pointed me in the right direction.”
“A life of crime?”
“No… he knew a great dealer in the making…”
“So much so that he offered you his bag of Liquorice allsorts? Didn’t your mother warn you about sharks offering sweets?”
“Just have a sweet and shut up will you?”
“Oooh yes – I’ll have one of those… Mmmm that’s good; though they’ve gone a bit soft under all these strip lights… aaah… mmmm…. alright; put me out of my misery and tell me what he taught you… mmm….”
“When you’ve quite finished?”
“Oh er; sorry… this one’s stuck all over my teeth… sorry… carry on; ahem…”
“Okay… Let me see if I can remember it all near enough… like I say it was a long time ago now – a different world… Each one of these sweets represents a deal.”
“Okay got that… mind if I have another one? Mmmm lovely… So what about this one the solid round liquorice?”
“That’s a basic commodity deal – What You See Is What You Get.”
“Er… What about the round liquorice one with the white centre?”
“WYSIWYG is true – but not always: sometimes there is hidden leverage to be had in the deal or another to be struck.”
“It’s good this – I’m beginning to get the drift – so how about the sandwich?”
“A complex deal on more than one level so take care you don’t get caught in the middle.”
“An extremely complex deal on a whole number of levels – but with the subtlest rewards like the flavour of this one in the bag.”
“Okay… this is fun! The round coloured coconut one with a liquorice centre?”
“Beware of some deals… they’re surrounded by so much hype and PR that it’s a while before you can get to the core of the matter.”
“Mmmm… I like coconut.”
“Okay; so what about these – the aniseedy, chewy ones with the scores of little nobbly bits on them; you don’t get many of them in a pack.”
“Precisely… some deals are very rare – especially where you can make hundreds of thousands on them.”
“The Bertie Bassett?”
“Never had them in the pack back then but if I had to hazard a guess – they’d represent the financial regulator: never needed them; never wanted them – never asked for them.”
“And the special red Bertie?”
“Oh I don’t know – the financial regulator with the scent of foul play in his nostrils and the government of the day up his arse?!”
“Are the different colours relevant? After all there’s pink and yellow for the coconut ones and those chewy aniseed drops come in blue and pink… and…”
“Only in as much as deals come in all shapes and sizes I suppose… ”
“What’d you expect – pink for the girls and blue for the boys?”
“No… just that it would have made it more interesting if…”
“Look! They’re a metaphor – not a bloody handbook!”
“I just thought that…”
“Alright, if each one represents something – is a metaphor like you say – then what about the pack as a whole?”
“A warning for being too greedy maybe?”
“By wanting it all too quickly…”
“Mmmm… mind if I have that last coconut one?”
“Go ahead… eat as many as you like… yeh; that’s it…”
“The metaphor for the whole bag… No one can have it all – if you try and do all the deals at the same time you’ll end up with a nasty taste in your mouth and equally nasty stains in your trousers.”
“Still like to know what the man himself thought… Anyway – I’m off…”
“Coffee run? I’ll have an Ethiopian – three shots as usual…”
“No! I’m going the other way… there’s a 24-seven on the corner by the Tube… you’ve actually inspired me for once – I’m going to get some Haribo mixed and see if I can’t bring this up to date in time for that team building weekend in the Lake District.”
“Sweet Jesus… It takes all sorts…”
The serious licking, chewing and sucking is over… Here’s a top ten of old fashioned sweets in no particular order of preference…
1) Liquorice: Hardcore. A sub-section all of its own. No quarter asked for and none given with the black stuff: you either loved it or you hated it with a vengeance. The grown-ups had their own cache and the cash to purchase Pontefract Cakes and Liquorice Allsorts; us kids were only fleetingly interested in the blue and pink nobbly ones – and there was no Bertie hiding in the bag in those days. Liquorice brought out the inventor in sweet manufacturers – there were Bootlaces, Catherine Wheels where liquorice was wrapped around one of those highly desirable nobbly ones for a double whammy; Sticks, Whirls, Liquorice Toffee, Torpedoes and Flavoured Strands to name but a few. Nothing matched the hard black sheen of liquorice in the raw – the harsh bitter flavour followed by the softer fluffier brown interior. And nothing matched the way it oozed between the gaps in the teeth and padded the gums. There was a deep satisfaction in the long chew available, bonus points for a brown/black tongue and the coup de grace was liquorice’s laxative effect. Toilet talk was the stock in trade of the primary school playground and to be able to mix children’s two favourite subjects together was a work of some considerable genius. All Sorted!
2) Parma Violets: Essentially one for the girls… though also one for the boys who were a worry to their parents. They came in very small purple-wrapped tubes which were no bigger than a little finger. A penny bought four small tubes. I think that was the rate of exchange as, of course, I never bought any. It was like eating the contents of your Granny’s bedroom drawers: a strange artificial mix of scent and the medicinal. The sweetness and colour suggested the cunning methodology of the family doctor to get tablets down your throat when ill and the chalky texture when crumbled on the tongue was similar to the moment when you vowed never to trust a man with a stethoscope again. Funnily enough I’m getting lily-of-the-valley and mothballs along with the violet. Strange Boy!
3) Space Dust: A cult among those who loved sweets that did that little bit more. The shiny silver foil packaging was space age and modern in a way that could only suggest the Glam rock seventies. It was the Glitter Band in a packet and left as bad a taste as mentioning Gary Glitter in a feature on kids’ favourites. It was space age in concept in that it had no nutritionally redeeming value whatsoever and kids could easily imagine the Apollo crews’ rations as the sparkly powder slid down their throats. It was certainly “to boldly go…” to attempt two or more packets of this stuff. Only the idiots and Johnnie Gray swallowed a packet whole – their mouths a foaming spitting morass of crackle and pop – like an early mobile phone connection. The really clever could space talk as it popped. Some people put Space Dust down as a defining moment; a point at which our children’s diets took that turn for the worst to lead us to the convenience generation we have today. In their solemn universe Space Dust was the tip of the Milky Way. Silly Burgers!
4) Jelly Babies: They came from out of the packet to invade the playground these offspring of the sugar devil… another one for the girls whose early maternal instincts were to the fore. Red, orange, green, purple, yellow – they came in a range of lurid colours and an intensely sticky sweet surge of laboratory created flavour. Embarrassing for a lad to be caught red-handed or red-lipped with a packet of these. Only acceptable if stolen from the girls to bite off the babies’ heads for maximum disgust and horror factor. And those fixed grin faces… It reminds me of a time I had a dream – like Martin Luther King on acid – an army of little red girls and little green boys… though it was as impossible to sex them as your pet Gerbil. You Sugar Mouse!
5) Black Jacks/Fruit Salads: Two for the price of one. An all time classic of the Penny Chew proletarian ilk! Ask anyone of successive generations what they remember buying most fondly and these two are always high in the list. These were the ultimate value selections from that most convenient of stores – the corner shop: four-for-a-penny it said and that’s what you got – unless old white coat’s wife was on the counter. A good tip was to search your pocket as if it was your last penny and hand it over with the wide eyes of a puppy: worked every time. Oblong in shape and crucially long in the mouth when chewing – the Black Jacks had an aniseedy twang while their orange/yellow soul mates suggested bad seventies décor and tasted like fruit never tasted before. As inextricably linked as Morecambe and Wise, Salt’n’Vinegar, sports pitches and mud; and a touch of Claire Hawkins’ blue gym knickers and a fierce slap. The brave/stupid (delete as applicable) ate both flavours together as well. Not a sweet for the middle-classes. Too Stuck Up!
6) Jamboree Bags – The Kinder Egg of its day. A parental treat or a flush kid pushing the boat out once a week – or once a month. The thin, sealed coloured paper bag contained a selection of glossy-wrapped uneven toffees and chews and an inferior plastic toy all of which purported to be a “Surprise!” Duh! Like we were that stupid! We kids did talk to each other you know – not just gossip like you adults. This was the kind of product guaranteed to get all the kids writing in to Watchdog – if it had existed then. The name suggested a left-over from Empire; the contents also seemed from another time. Like that first kiss – an intense disappointment. Jamboree Bags are in the list for curiosity value only. A thin gruel in a time of plenty. If we wanted “free” gifts bubblegum packs were full of football pictures, cartoons – Bazooka Joe – and American Civil War cards: even today I know my Appomattox from my Gettysburg although even the wily persuasion of old Abe Lincoln would have been unable to remove bubblegum from my parents proscribed list. Oi! Leave those kids alone! Something for when great-Gran was a girl and Queen Victoria was on the throne. Silly Old (Jamboree) Bag!
7) Love Hearts: A stone cold classic of old fashioned sweets! From the Refresher school of thought, these brightly-coloured round tablets came replete with see-through packets and heart-framed messages of all kind in the love stakes – I don’t really need to say more. If you don’t know what these were about you simply were never children my dear. Subject to an adult revival with sexual overtones. Overtones! F**k Me! (Er, yeh; that was one of them) These were as much a currency of the playground as pennies in your pocket, conkers and trump cards. They were the instigators of kiss-chase; the consultation runes for many a nascent relationship and a random fun instruction for a game of dare. They spoke eloquently though briefly for the shy and those of few words – as if Clint Eastwood had dictated the messages – and let’s not forget that love also hurts. I left one on a desk for Clare Hawkins and she declined to read it and then just ate it in a cold act of female retribution. A stoned heart beat in the flint-walled playground later. Go On… Give Us A Kiss!
8) Tip Top/Ice Pop: The archetypal walking home sweet that was also a drink in the winter (the former) and cool refreshment in the summer (the latter). Brightly coloured liquid that gave us all our E-fill for the day. They were contained in inch wide/2.5 centimetre transparent strips of anything up to a foot/30cms in length although more usually half that size. They took you on an adrenaline rush to another place without the need to do drugs at school age. The kiddie’s equivalent of a snifter after a hard day at the office: “Make mine a double please shopkeeper.” They were red, green, orange and yellow in a way that nothing in nature was. Avoid spilling on your white school shirt at all costs! Colour Me Pop!
9) Sour Apples: Our only nod to a-quarter-of sweets territory… hear them rattle in the glass jar as the shopkeeper tried to break off an equivalently weighted lump. Four ounces: (Mint) Imperial measurements – try getting the romance into the metric equivalent clever clogs! A quarter-pounder without McDonalds in the same sentence how – Wicked! Hear their sticky progress as they clattered like an avalanche from a sugary rock face into the silver metal scoop from the scales. White paper bag crisply folded, ten pence handed over and wait for change: ten minutes later they were all stuck together again in one lump but with added paper. A sweet strictly for the connoisseur. They were like green Gobstoppers with flushed red cheeks as if they were embarrassed to see the light of day beyond the shop shelf. Tasted sour. Never tasted like apples. Like most of their friends in maximum security glass jars they were candidates for the Trades Description Act. Undoubtedly concocted and named by the same person who stated that: little girls were made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Bet he never tried kissing Caroline Brady. (Sorry Claire – I did warn you.) Pass me a sweet to get the taste out me mouth! Sour Grapes!
10) Sherbet Fountains/Dabs/ Dips: A Top Ten list would be incomplete without sherbet – the angel dust of one’s youth. We mixed it with water, with orange juice, in the tube of a Tip Top and anything else that would make that white powder fizz. We lit it in silver paper left over from the Sunday roast – or was that something else? The starting point for ulcers in later life… my stomach cramps at the memory. Sherbet Fountains – unlike the other varieties which often came with a small toffee or cellophaned fruit lolly – combined liquorice and sherbet together. How fizzing good was that!? They looked like yellow fire works with black fuses and they exploded unsuspecting bowels with a latent timing device – usually bed time. If gin was Mother’s ruin then sherbet did its evil best on her kids. Sensual in a manner given to few other sweets: the complete package. Tart With A Heart!