Archive for the ‘Haribo’ Tag

The Killing Floor (8)

traders-work-at-their-desks- 

“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.”

“Why?”

“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?”

“Natural talent…”

“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… aaahmmmm…. 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.”

“The multi-sandwich?”

“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.”

You would…”

“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… ”

“Oh…”

“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…”

“Well don’t!”

“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?”

“How?”

“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…”

“What?”

“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…”

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Old Fashioned Sweets

Sweet shop old woman behind counter

 Licking the sticky fingers of history

It was all about colour at first – the more garish and intense the better: a kaleidoscope to view – near you – at any corner shop worth its reputation.  Flushed faces pressed on plate glass windows above rows of sticky finger prints bearing witness to a fundamental rite.  All keen to take an £.S.D. experience of kiddie kitsch, where the only trip involved was over a well-worn step too prominent for short and eager legs.  Shop bell echoing school bell… a Pavlovian ringtone deep in the consciousness of any young consumer.

It was also about time.  In the morning sweets meant compensation.  But late-afternoon… end of school + going home = sweets = reward.  The happiest sum of them all: the one that everyone understood.  The shop was our Ark.  It was run by a surly man in a white warehouse coat who hated children due to a difficulty in the trouser department – if shop gossip was to be believed.  “Only two at the counter at a time please!”  We fought for a chance to get down in the flood; to ride the foaming breakers of man-made flavour swept along in an addictive sea of sugar that broke on a glass counter wet with expectation and hot breath.  Let the difficult task begin… “I said, two at a time only!”   How to choose from such a comprehensive selection for all schools of taste?

“Move over Daddy-O – bright sweets are where it’s at!”

 

The adults queued – over there – for things whose appeal was a mystery: tobacco and cigarettes; pink paraffin and brown-bottled drink; indigestion pills and last week’s newspaper bills.  We had our own corner of the corner shop: the first to be shouted at and the last to be served – usually by the shopkeeper’s wife who loved kids and had none herself (probably because of the alleged difficulty in the trouser department).

We knew nothing about these frustrations – other than the extra Fruit Salad in the bag – as we had enough of our own.  They extended beyond the shopkeeper – “I’ll tell your bloody headmaster if you don’t start behavin’!” – to valuable financial lessons © Smug parents everywhere: envious of our carefree attitude and determined we share some of the burden that they carried.  As if choosing wasn’t enough of a tax on the brain!  We knew pocket money – unlike a Liquorice Bootlace – only went so far.

We were a necessary evil in the corner shop scheme of things.  It was true that our grasp of supply economics came down to how many for a penny.  Yes; there was an unrealised belief in supply and demand but that only stretched to our fiscal relationship with white-coat man i.e. We demand: you supply.  We had no inkling of what sort of mark up there was on something so cheap?  Answeet_rationd who would earn a living on the fickle whims of kids’ taste buds without ending up embittered and hateful?  Kids demanded cheap to make them cheerful.  If it was cheap and nasty then so much the better.  Ultimately, it was a matter of taste: don’t get the tang, the texture and the sugary tease just right and the rest was academic.

Like so much that is timeless in our time-less society we have the Victorians to thank for the sweetest of habits.  They didn’t discover sugar but like much else they refined it into a practical money-making, empire-building habit.  From sugar dainties in the drawing room; a gift from Papa – “Come here, this is for you; Archibald and Nicolette dearest” – to the sweet and sour hyper-hit of Haribo from a harassed single Mum: “Oi, Aaron and Nicorette get yer arses over ‘ere – nah! And don’t eat so many that yer puke again awwight?!” – a long spun thread of sugar links us all in an orgy of aching teeth and sore gums.

 “Modern equivalent? Ooh; about one mouthful in the Asda queue you screaming brat.”

 

But colour was King.  The memory of the privations of the Second World War and the grey conformity of the early post-war period was the perfect breeding ground for rock’n’roll, multi-coloured confectionery and er… nits: “Move over Daddy O – bright sweets are where it’s at!”  You might not have been old enough to distinguish Cliff from Richard but when it came to sweets… ah, that was a different mouthful entirely.

As always with the British, the war hung heavy on the popular consciousness both in a way that was real and imagined.  Rationing carried on through to the early-fifties so a whole new generation was able to sympathise with and experience, like some modern day reality show, the 2oz (about 60 odd grammes) of sweets a week – yes a week! – allowed in the time of conflict.  Modern equivalent?  Ooh; about one mouthful in the Asda queue you screaming brat.

If you were lucky someone else less sugar dependent left their coupons behind to be divided up among the other customers; and, looking on the bright side as so many wartime songs were wont to do, at least the kids who lived through it were able to tell a tale with a full set of white gnashers.  Cue the deferential clipped tones: “Now live from the BBC at Alexandra Palace, Miss Vera Lynn will give us her rendition of The White Teeth of Dover followed by We’ll Eat Again.  Now be upstanding for the King.  Gawd bless his majesty!”  Who – no doubt – had his own stash of the sweet stuff by virtue of his bag full of royal appointments with the manufacturers.aniseed-balls

Who said Adolf Hitler was supposed to be child-friendly?  “Nevah… have so many… sucked… on so few.  This is not the end (of the Aniseed Ball).  Slurp! It is not even the beginning of the end (the black chewy liquorice centre).  Smack!  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning (the red shell has nearly worn off).”  Thanks Winston.  Yes; the Hun may have blockaded the Atlantic but the children of Britain would have their Aniseed Balls – although only 2oz of course…

PART TWO for… Gobstoppers, Jelly Snakes and Claire Hawkins’ blue gym knickers…

 

 

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