During my childhood, life was ... sweets
"Slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails" were what little boys were made of.Skip to next paragraph
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Little girls, on the other hand unfairly, I thought were made of "sugar and spice and all things nice."
We had a shortage of little girls at home, and later, at boarding school, a positive dearth, but I don't recall actually believing this sexist doggerel to be much more than a weird grown-up joke.
I knew, anyway, absolutely, what were really made of sugar and spice and all things nice, and they were infinitely more interesting than mere girls, for goodness' sake. They were what Mr. Percy sold in his shop. He kept them in beautiful and delightful glass jars with enticing screw tops and delicious labels, delectably arranged in glorious lines on entrancing shelves. Their color and variety, shape and texture, hardness, softness, shine, sheen, and sugary sweetness were things of incalculable pleasure, the stuff that dreams are made of, sweet dreams.
In different cultures, they acquire different names candies, sweets, tuck. Dylan Thomas in "A Child's Christmas in Wales" (a good read year-round) lists tongue-tinglingly some from his boyhood: "Bags of moist and many colored jelly babies.... Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh."
Mr. Percy is the only shopkeeper I remember from my Yorkshire childhood, and I even remember exactly where his shop was on Bingley's main street. He was high on my list of toddler's priorities. He must be a particularly early impression, I think, because, as I see him now, it is from a very low-lying perspective. He towers, big, round, and beamingly pink-faced every inch a Yorkshireman over his counter, looking down at me, his features suffused with the benevolence of marshmallow and the mouth- wateringness of peardrops, patiently awaiting my squeaked, shy order. "Could I please haf a quarterofapound of...?" Mmmm, what would it be today? Paynes Poppets? Clarnico peppermint creams? Murray Mints, the "too-good-to-hurry mints"?
The decision would already have been mulled over for a long while, probably with an acute sense of longing in bed the night before. It might be chocolate bon-bons, it might be New Berry fruits with their suddenly gushy liquid centers, it might be Sharp's toffees (buttery and chewy), it might be licorice allsorts. Should I get the toffees this week with nuts in them? Would I have enough money left over for a small bar of Cadbury's milk chocolate? Or a tube of Rolos? Spangles? Refreshers?
These were matters of grave consideration, compared to which the machinations of Hitler and the strategies of Montgomery and Eisenhower were of no significance whatsoever. In fact I'm not entirely sure I'd even heard of Churchill, and if I had my interest in his determination to defeat the enemy would probably have focused on one basic question: How soon after victory would sweet rationing end?