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

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

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Recruitment Genius: Bathroom Showroom Customer Service / Sales Assistant

£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Manager

£44000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Marketing company based in cent...

Recruitment Genius: IT Installation / Commissioning Engineer - North West

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Installation / Commission...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Mininster: I would legislate for abortion on demand and abolish VAT on sanitary products

Caroline Criado-Perez
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence