It wasn’t like this in my day.
I mean to say. Crikey.
Actually, I don’t remember the Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds visual effects either, but this was the only picture I could find of Brentwood Preparatory School where I was a boarder from 1957 to 1961.
Boarding school life offered few pleasures for a lonely 7 year old. But one that Chris liked to hear me recount was the weekly visit to the “tuck shop.” For the uninitiated, this was a padlocked, walk-in larder loaded with boxes containing sweets and chocolates provided by our parents at the beginning of each term.
Each boarder had his own hoard; mine I remember was stored in a marbled plastic forerunner of a Tupperware box, with my name inscribed on a dog tag that my mother had attached by a split-ring through a hole she had made in the lid with a hot needle. At the time, I was both fascinated by my mother’s imaginative handiwork and humiliated by the fact that she had used a dog tag.
On Sundays, in the otherwise desolate hours between morning chapel and evening service, we queued to receive our weekly treat. As each salivating boy got to the front of the line, Matron picked his box off the shelf, removed the lid and – under her eagle-eye – proffered its contents for him to select a single piece of tuck.
Looking back, I’m not sure which was more exciting – the prospect of sinking one’s teeth into the chosen delight or the opportunity, in a regimented world where choice was almost non-existent, to choose for oneself which particular item to consume. I adored chocolate in all its forms: coconut-filled Bounties; unctuous, gooey Mars Bars; Kit-Kats with silver foil wrapping that could be rubbed to reveal the inscription beneath; improbably aerated, ribbed slabs of Aero; Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and strangely yellow-coloured Caramacs.
My class-mate Wignall on the other hand, preferred packets of Fruit Pastilles and Maynard’s Wine Gums which could be stashed and traded for favours during the week. Fiske was a sucker for Fry’s Peppermint Creme while Huxley indiscriminately wolfed down anything that came his way.
Winterbottom Minor rarely got to enjoy any tuck at all as his older brother Winterbottom Major would extort it from him as his dues for “protection.”
All this is by way of a preamble to saying that before she died, Chris secretly commissioned our friend Claire Nichols to procure for me a posthumous Christmas present: a tuck box full to bursting with 1950s retro-sweets.
I’m eating one piece a week and it’s still half full.
Confectionery of the Gods.
Thank you, my lovely.
A lovely story Geoff. When’s the “The Chris I Knew” book coming out !” That would be a big fat unputdownable addition to the bookshelves.