Every Saturday morning I work for my daughter's music group. I get to sell sweets to kids, fulfilling a long-held childhood ambition of working in (not even owning!) a sweet shop. I have intense memories of getting my pocket money on Saturday morning and spending it on sweets and girls comics (Bunty, Judy and Mandy). For children, this an important educational stage; learning how to budget.
Now I relive this. Little kids standing over the sweets, brows furrowed, asking how much each item costs... you can see the cogs turn...
'If I get a Kit-Kat, a packet of crisps, and a drink, have I got enough? Can I get a Milky way too?'
Look at the pictures above, aren't they pretty? They represent Christmas, Easter and Halloween with their tinsel jackets.
Refreshers (a sweet from my childhood with reassuringly unchanged packaging) at only 20p are really popular. Some children have a serious Refresher habit, buying 4 or 5 packets at a time. We haven't had any in for a while, there seems to be a nationwide shortage of Refreshers. The kids are starting to panic.
Very few people like Bounty bars, quite sensibly. Nobody likes Picnics.
The trend in sweets is towards sour or fizzy... which I love, especially if they make your tongue sore to the point of bleeding.
I also like Rowntree's fruit gums, and at 170 calories a pack, they are practically a health option.
Different countries like different sweets: the Portuguese like anything egg flavoured, and favour sweets and desserts in the shape of breasts. The Scandinavians and the Dutch love salt liquorice (I love this too, but it's a love it or hate it thing, like Marmite). The Spanish have their 'Chupachups' lollypops, which come in hundreds of flavours.
The British buy the most small bars of chocolate in the world. Nice to know we are tops at something! Sweet shops are on every corner.
The French, of course, are dead classy with their sweets; featuring artisanal bonbons from certain regions: berlingots (a home-made boiled sweet) from Nantes and Carpentras, aniseed sweets in exquisite little tins from Flavigny (made by nuns and Agatha Christie's favourite sweet), powdery mint lozenges from Vichy, marrons glacées (candied chestnuts, delicious and expensive) from Provence, toffees made with salty butter from L'ile de ré (caramels au beurre salé).
Childhood holidays in France were cherished for little toffee sticks of Caram'bar, in Austria for 'Mozart' balls (chocolate and marzipan with a portrait of Mozart as a child on the front), in Switzerland for bars of Milka chocolate by Suchard.
The Quaker firms Cadbury's, Frys and Rowntrees have dominated chocolate in the U.K. for centuries, legacy of guilt about the exploitation of cocoa and the slave trade plus a desire to get the working classes to eat chocolate rather than drink alcohol.