As Valentines day rolls around like an elderly drunk auntie with a heavy moustache, hiccupping ‘Give us a kiss, love,’ it prompts one to ask: What do you really love?
I have been thinking about this.
What I really, really love are penny sweets
Sad but true, I always have, my love is unwavering.
I have never met a chewy milk bottle I didn’t like. I like foamy mushrooms and shrimps and bananas. Shrimps, which Marks and Spencer renders as Prawns and Lobsters because it is an upmarket store, are actually made of cornflour and flavouring. All the time I thought I was gluten intolerant I could eat them, they were sweets in my hour of need. Which is pretty much always.
Like a popstar or an actor who you lust after at a distance, knowing they will be yours but briefly, I recall the taste of some sweets shaped like strawberries that my aunt bought back from a holiday in the Channel islands in the late nineteen fifties. A one-off delight, sadly, never rediscovered.
I do like liquorice. I used to be bought, occasionally, as a child, an entire smoker’s set made of sweets. A liquorice pipe with fake smouldering bowl topped with red hundreds and thousands and, naturally, sweet cigarettes, the ensemble finished off by a little packet of tobacco made of shredded coloured coconut, all items tastefully presented in a lurid yellow box with pictures of people killing themselves by smoking on the front and a cellophane window so you could see how realistically you’d be able to ape your elders and betters.
I do like fondant in collusion with liquorice. You can get liquorice tubes wrapped in chocolate fondant. What a brilliant invention.
When I was a child and sick (often, with hindsight I was allergic to my mother,) she bought me Allenbury’s lozenges, which were blackcurrant flavoured sucking sweets with a hard jelly consistency. They were to stop you coughing so you would shut up and go to sleep. They came in a great little tin, which you could keep afterwards. My mother used to give me the tin at bedtime and then worry endlessly that I would choke to death and keep popping in to ask if I’d stopped coughing, I would reply and cough, obviously.
Red liquorice in long strings is great. Any sweets in long strings that you like is wonderful. You have all the way from here to the end to go, such a joy. I like the long long fondants in liquorice tubes in lurid colours. Excellent.
I’m sorry but candy floss is disappointing, you can’t actually bite it and it makes your face sticky. In a high wind it can make your ears so viscous that your hair adheres to them overnight and has to be cut off in the morning.
Cutting the hair off your ears is one downside of candyfloss, the other is that it doesn’t actually taste of anything.
I don’t like hard boiled sweets, if you suck too many sherbet lemons your tongue becomes very sore. Many boiled sweets lose their flavour after a while. However, a stick of minty seaside rock left in a drawer for a few years until it goes soft and develops small holes here and there, like holes in a geode lined with sugar crystals, this is a thing worth having. The iron self-control required to leave it in the drawer long enough is very character forming. You only have to eat it too soon once to know. Open the drawer, stroke it with a finger, close the drawer for another few months, ooh you can feel your character forming like jelly going crispy round the mould edges.
Jellies. Yes. When I went to see the Beatles at the Sunderland Empire in 1963, Ringo had just announced he liked jelly babies. So I stood under the shelf on the ground floor in an absolute hail of jelly babies. They can be quite painful en masse, chucked jelly babies, I don’t suppose any of them reached Ringo, he was right up at the back of the stage behind the drums.
As well as knowing what you really love, it’s worth knowing what you don’t really love.
Boxes of chocolates. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really like boxes of chocolates. It’s not just that there’s always one you don’t like. There’s always several. Coffee creams for example, what git invented them? Raspberry creams. Who thought of them? You bite them and they run out all over your chin. Yuk. Don’t get me started on orange and chocolate. I think they probably serve it in Hell and it’s the main reason I try to be good.
Mint and chocolate, however. Oh yes. One of the reasons for being grown up is so that you can afford to buy a box of those wafer thin chocolate mints all to yourself. At Christmas they do the box or, better, two boxes, in a tin. And the tin is the right size for pens and pencils. You can get 28 Kurecolour dual tipped markers in an After Eight tin, I have done the research, and you still have room up the end for short propelling pencils or rubbers or even a small notebook. And you are eating the chocolates to make free storage provision for your future career in art. Result.
And, of course, soft rhubarb and custards, Fondant really, flavoured with lemon. Absolutely perfect, you can eat so much it would make you horribly sick but the lemon stops it from being sickly! Genius! Why is there no Nobel prize category for sweet invention? Serious omission, in my view.
Historically sweets were a bad idea. You only have to look at all those portraits of bygone rich people, who could afford sweets, hiding their teeth behind a fan to know the invention of dentists was not far behind. I recall visiting a Scottish town some years ago, when there was a Scottish Miniatura. This town had a street entirely lined with sweet shops and estate agents, for those understandably desperate to live there, and a parallel street housing many, many dentists. Almost a study in perpetual motion.
It is an addiction, you know. It’s exactly the same receptors in the brain as alcohol.
I am above all that. I’m not addicted. I can have entire days without sweets. Weeks probably (though to be honest I have never tried.)
My other great love would be to be thin. This has never happened for reasons I am powerless to access.
Put positively I am cuddly and usually have a bag of sweets nearby to share.
What’s not to love?