With the growling pain of an infected impacted wisdom tooth and an industrial-sized pack of antibiotics plastered with the warning ‘do not even think about touching just a drop of alcohol when taking these, or indeed for four weeks afterwards or you’ll see every meal you’ve ever eaten again, but not in their original form,‘ I was in desperate need of a good cheering up.
“At least,” Noel said cheerily as we hit every pothole on the way back from the dentist’s, jarring my jaw and provoking an involuntary yelp of pain, “at least we don’t have to argue about who’s the designated driver on New Year’s Eve”. Well, every cloud…., I barked.
Cheering up was just around the corner. Around the corner, left into the car park and across the footpath to Hobby Craft, it turned out. We needed to make hobby-related purchases for Christmas presents, but this wonderful store full of shiny things, bright colours and fancy cup cake collars by the hundred, is always worth a poke around as I never like to come away empty-handed
If I was ever to appear on Mastermind, my specialist subject would be Confectionery Countlines, 1960 to 1980. Without being too immodest can I just say I am an expert on everything from Penny Arrows through to the Sherbert Dib Dab, midget gems (originally made by Lion’s in Cleckheaton) and Aztec,Cadbury’s briefly popular answer to the Mars Bar, but we all know what happened to the Aztecs, don’t we? I have carried out statistically significant taste tests on every affordable sweet in those years, except for nut-based confectionery. An early over-indulgence in Brazil nuts led to rather spectacular projectile vomiting so nuts have been avoided ever since. I even worked in a sweet shop to help feed my teen addiction, it was the nearest I came to heaven in those days.
So to see a box displaying a montage of everything from Aero (the original and best) to Mint Cracknel (like eating cold razor blades) was like an instant TARDIS trip back to childhood. There was a catalogue of sweets I had eaten, or sometimes spat out, Milky Bars, Flakes, Jelly Tots and Tooty Frooties, along with the forgotten-but-soon-remembered Cadbury’s Tangerine Cream (subtle flavour, lovely texture), the chewy morning break biscuit Skippy, the teeth-rotting Fruit Polo and Paynes Assorted Poppets, usually only available at the cinema, which I rarely visited as a child. Oh instant joy.
The picture, it turned out, was a jigsaw, another specialist subject, though not evoked since the Aztec was last on sale. Produced by the Museum of Brands, the 1960s Sweet Memories jigsaw stood between the 1950s, which boasted early versions of Kit Kat, Caramac and the Jamboree Lucky Bag and the 1970s with the 3p Curly Wurly, Cadbury’s Rumba, a rum bar (geddit? Consumers didn’t, it was a flop) and the gone-but-not-forgotten plain chocolate Toffee Crisp.
The impulse purchase nearly came a cropper when we realised we didn’t have anything large enough to put the puzzle on – until I remembered the old shower screen we’d kept ‘because it might come in’. It came in.
So there we were, Noel, me, the Cat and childhood tales of confectionery. It made me forget the tooth infection and the unopened bottles of wine, though I couldn’t help wondering whether the sweet tooth was what had got me into this dental trouble in the first place.