David Randall: A victory for our children's right to chews

Sucking on the psychology of psychedelic sweets

Share
Related Topics

Last week's diversion from the world of Significant Happenings was the revival of old-fashioned confectionery. Such, apparently, is the demand that Marks & Spencer and other retailers can't source supplies of pineapple chunks, humbugs and jelly babies quickly enough. We are, it seems – in a refreshingly literal sense – becoming a nation of suckers.

Trend-spotters, and other specialists in cod psychology, immediately saw the sticky fingerprints of nostalgia all over this one. It was the recession, you see, making us all want to retreat from the ugly present into a reassuring past. And, since we couldn't do that, we could at least, reach inside a big bag of comfort candy and sooth ourselves with a taste of yesteryear.

I think it's simpler than that: we're all getting a bit fed up with the lavishly chocolate-coated, praline-filled, nut-encrusted, creamy textured, over-bloated, bigger-than-your-baby's-forearm modern confectionery bar. There's a lot to be said, instead, for bite-sized nibbles of something more imaginative than processed cocoa beans, for something in weird shapes and dayglo colours, but then I'm biased.

My tastes were formed in that golden age between the end of sweet rationing in 1953, and the invention of the Yorkie bar in 1976, an appalling event which marked the advent of greedy-guts chocolate bars and thus the confectionery Dark Ages.

Anyone over 50 has in their minds an idealised sweet shop, to which they can be transported back at the first whiff of a pear drop. Mine was on the way to school, a small, rather dingy looking premises whose windows were full of large glass jars of sweets mellowing in the sun. Inside were counter trays of unwrapped sweets: flying saucers (shaped rice paper full of sherbet); jelly dummies; foamy sweets (the pink ones like prawns, the yellow ones like small, pregnant bananas; Pontefract cakes; liquorice whirls; chews (penny, ha'penny, and farthing); gobstoppers, sherbet fountains (liquorice straws inserted into a paper tube of white powder that frothed up your nose if you sucked too hard); and sweet cigarettes, red-tipped to give the apprentice smoker the right idea. (For special occasions, there were "smoking sets" for children, consisting of chocolate cigars, liquorice pipes, "sweet tobacco" – shredded coconut in a St Bruno-style pouch, and, I kid you not, a small tin ashtray).

Behind the counter stood the sommelier of these and other goodies – a little old lady in bib-apron, who, if you were lucky (and we were) allowed her customers inordinate amounts of time to dither over their selections. And behind her, on wide wooden shelves, stood large jars of humbugs, caramels, bull's-eyes, aniseed balls, Everton mints, peanut brittle, cola cubes, milk gums, rhubarb and custard, American hard gums, dew drops (tiny pea-sized boiled sweets), wine gums, and things for grown-ups, like iced caramels, dragees, chocolate brazils, and Turkish delight.

And when you'd finally made your selection (which might necessitate the old girl mounting her wooden stepladder several times), she would sprinkle the contents into the metal cradle of her scales, weigh out your quarter pound, tip them into a paper bag, twist it, and take your pennies.

Such chocolate bars as there were in those days (KitKats, Mars, Picnics, and Fry's) were beyond our pockets. What we had was something in a bag, something you could tip out and count when you got home, or even, if they were liquorice comfits, sort out into piles of different colours. Above all, they were not something you wolfed down, but eked out over hours, or days if you were like me and had a twin brother to torment. They lasted, they could be savoured, hoarded, or shared. They were more than sweets, they were Social Weapons. No wonder they're coming back.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones