Saturday, 2 April 2011

Oh, What Can It Mean?

I've been off work Thursday and Friday, feeling unwell. I've been burning a lot of plates at both ends, spinning a lot of candles in the air, and generally mixing my metaphors; never a good idea. It's finally given me a sore throat and a splitting headache. As I'm normally up at 6:30 (a.m. these days, sadly) just those couple of extra hours in bed are enough to take me into Oddly Meaningful Reverie territory. Once, I would spend most of the daylight hours wandering around in there, my favourite form of exercise. Given half a chance my daughter would, too. She has inherited that idle daydream-believer gene.

Thursday morning, I found myself inwardly contemplating a colour scheme. A table-cloth, in large pastel-coloured squares. Then a sort of bold pattern of hooped stripes, running round a cylinder. Very bold, same colours as the table-cloth -- pink, yellow and green. A roll of sweets. Pastel-coloured round tablets, with a concave surface. Smooth on the tongue, then fizzy... What the hell were they called? The effort of trying to remember the name brought to mind a sequence of corner-shop sweets, packaged in a similar way: Smarties, Fruit Pastilles, Fruit Gums, Rollo, Munchies, Spangles, Love Hearts, Trebor Mints, Polos, Fruit Polos... No, none of the above.

Then my inner eye was distracted by the large glass jars of loose sweets on the high shelf behind the counter. Sherbet Flying Saucers, Liquorice Allsorts, Dolly Mixtures, Murray Mints, Chocolate Rainbow Drops, Sweet Peanuts, Aniseed Balls, Cough sweets, and various other soft, hard, moulded, dusty, fuzzy, lemony, and medicinal-looking lozenges I never quite got around to trying. So many sweets, so little pocket money!

Yeah, yeah... Sweets, sweetshops, childhood, nostalgia, etc. I can go there any day. But what were those concave fizzy things called? Not knowing and not being able to remember steered me into some more unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Frequently, these days, I'm getting these "senior moments" when the names of things seem to come adrift from the things themselves. If I am destined to get dementia in old age, I expect this is how it will start. For all I know, it may already have started.

When I finally roused myself and started stumbling around the house, I asked my partner, working at her laptop in the kitchen, if she knew what these sweets were called I'd been dreaming about, and described them, but she gave me The Look. One of the reasons our life together works is that she doesn't put up with any of my nonsense. There is an entire alternative life story, probably spent dreaming in bed, which that Look has saved me from. My life may not have turned out quite as I'd imagined -- whose does? -- but I dread to think what might have happened if I'd managed to hook up with another lazy daydreamer. It was a silly question, anyway: in the families of the professionally moral middle-classes, kids didn't spend their time with noses pressed against the glass display of confectionery in the local cornershop honing their connoisseurship of brands, flavours and trends, consumers in training.

In the end, Google saved me. Refreshers! Of course. How could I possibly have forgotten? Good question, but I don't think I'm a candidate for the brain scan quite yet.


Martin H. said...

Ah yes, Refreshers. Boy, I've got through a few of those in my time. You also mentioned Spangles, Mike. The 'Old English' was my all-time favourite.

Hope you're on the mend. A similar virus has worked its way through our family, too.

Dave Leeke said...

"It was a silly question, anyway: in the families of the professionally moral middle-classes, kids didn't spend their time with noses pressed against the glass display of confectionery in the local cornershop honing their connoisseurship of brands, flavours and trends"

Let's not forget that you could buy single cigarettes (!) from "Millie's Tuck Shop" in the town with no name (I know - capital letters should be there) to whizz you back to a previous post. I'm sure we weren't the only kids so served -

Still, sweets were ubiquitous in our teenage years - but, guess what? I barely eat sweet things now - including chocolate.

"It's a sweet thing,a sweet thing . . ." ("Candidate", DB).

I think that sweet shops were a subversive element in our upbringing ( does anyone remember Tony Lark? Whatever happend to him?)

Mike C. said...


Ah, Spangles. When I was little, I used to make myself a treat by mixing Spangles into a bowl of dessicated coconut. I think this combo used to have a name, but it's gone now.


"My" sweet shop was the newsagents at the Hydean Way shops, where we used to hang about. Apart from the odd Mars Bar, I had lost my sweet tooth by my teens -- why I'm dreaming about Refreshers now is anybody's guess. It's probably nature's way of telling me I need Prozac...

If we're into "does anyone remember?" mode, does anyone remember Jamboree Bags? Why did anyone ever buy on twice? And can anyone explain why Wagon Wheels are still made? I did actually buy myself a Fray Bentos tinned steak & kidney pie last week to keep on a shelf, just for fun, but *nothing* would persuade me to buy a Wagon Wheel.


Martyn Cornell said...

You bastard, you've made me remember the Tuck Shop.

Interesting about Spangles, and that whole "boiled sweets" thing: Spangles vanished in the 1980s, and a revival in the mid-1990s failed to take off. Parents simply seem to have stopped buying what were, effectively, solid lumps of flavoured sugar for their children: was this pressure from dentists, or a change in public taste? I can't believe the British actually eat any less sugar in total today, but it seems to be in the form of chocolate-flavoured confectionery now. (I preferred the Acid Drops, incidentally, followed by Old English …)

Dave - Tony Lark now lives in Northern France with his French wife and two sons. What made you bring him up?

Mike C. said...

Oi, you two, I've warned you already -- no more exclusive home town chatter or you'll be barred. No-one cares who Tony Lark is. Never 'eard of him. Take it outside.


Martin H. said...

Jamboree Bags, with those really naff gifts. But how many fillings did the fruit salad and mojo chews, cost you? Not to mention Beech-Nut chewing gum.

You're right to avoid Wagon Wheels. I made the mistake of buying some, for old time's sake, and they were repulsive. Even worse than the originals!

Mike C. said...

Wagon Wheels are an utter mystery to me -- I don't think I've ever known anyone who liked them. Yet you can still buy them, 50 years on -- Tesco even sell them in multi-packs, as if you might want to eat more than one, or even give them to your children!

The only thing they have going for them is size. I suppose if your greed always trumps your taste, then you might be inclined to eat one, or even -- argh - two.

On the other hand, I admit to a deep liking for Cadbury's Snack chocolate shortbread, which always remind me of sitting in a steamy caff with my mum, aged 6, listening to Lonnie Donegan on the jukebox.


Dave Leeke said...

Tony Lark was the "subversive element" in my schooldays. He'd stop you and check the albums under your arm - he knew them all. He was the man (lad, I suppose) that introduced us to Captain Beefheart. Not that I was ever much of a fan.

I guess he was the prefect that was outside of the norm - David Watts, I suppose.

Thanks, Martyn.

Oh, I used to like Wagon Wheels.

Mike C. said...

You're on thin ice, DL, that's TWO reasons now to ban your arse from this pub -- and a taste for Wagon Wheels is the one weighing heaviest in the balance. Disgusting. Any more of this and I'll have to close the comments on this post.


Dave Leeke said...

I did say "used to". I have seen the errors of my ways and will never eat another one as long as I live.

Having lasted for many years without eating them, that shouldn't be a problem.

I still like Crunchies, though.

Dave Leeke said...

Oh, and by the way, my parents took me to see Lonnie Donegan as a child in arms. Evidently I slept through the entire performance.

As an adullt,I saw him twice more - once at the Cambridge Folk Festival(1981-ish) and once at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park a few years ago, before he died. Well, he went down well with the audience.

Mike C. said...

Crunchies are allowed -- don't like them myself, but I can accept that they fall on the spectrum of acceptable confectionery tastes.

When I was primary school age, I was a huge Lonnie Donegan fan -- had actual copies of "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour...", "Battle of New Orleans", "Rock Island Line", etc. Tommy Steele, too. But whilst waiting to hear them on the jukebox, I got a Grade A education in Real Rock'n'Roll -- it's still the music tattooed on my soul ("Shakin' All Over", "Tutti Frutti", etc.). It helped having an 8-years-older sister who had Elvis and Everly Brothers 78s, too.


Tony_C said...

Aha! My chance to get holier than thou with all you Town-With-No-Namers who gave up tobacco(see Smoking post - please teach me how to put links in here, someone)! I gave up all sucrose (free-standing and embedded) in 1992 (and booze in 1990)!

Maybe you should all Google "Pure, White & Deadly" and/or read "Sugar Blues".

Virtual spliff, anyone?

[Checkword: haintis - an anagram of Hi,Saint]

Mike C. said...

Saint Tony, eh? Has a certain ring...

Just cut and paste the URL from your browser -- people will simply reverse the process (i.e. cut and paste the link).

The trouble with giving up tobacco is that it gives you a biscuit habit. Doing my best to give *them* up now -- what I really want is a virtual packet of digestives.


Tony_C said...

Virtual biscuits? Sorry, Mike, not getting my hands dirty with that muck
(didn't work as a link, Mike)

[Checkword: boolows = 'demonstrate your disapprobation for the depressive phases which inevitably follow sugar-rush highs']

P.S. St Antony is the hermit who used ergot to get closer to God. cf St. Antony's Fire

Mike C. said...

Enough of these, ahem, rye comments, St. Antony. Ha.

Sorry, it's the weather.


Dave Leeke said...

Isn't ergot the reason for the witch hunts? People ate mouldy bread and that was probably the reason people saw witches flying etc - in that they were all hallucinating?

Not that I'm much of a historian or anything.

Tony_C said...

Yes, Dave, it is a fungal affliction of rye (hence Mike's attempt at "rye" humour) and can affect wheat, too. It caused mass outbreaks of "ergotism" when it got in the grain supply, and was apparently also a favourite method of husband-poisoning at certain times and places. The victim dies in agony with cramps.

Most famously its active principal, ergotamine, provided the chemcal basis for Hoffman's synthesis of LSD-25 (q.v.)

You not doing checkwords anymore, then? Muffsbi was a cracker.

[Checkword: consin - err together?]