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Sweet and sour memories

By Squinter

SQUINTER had no idea people took their sweets so seriously. A throwaway remark on Twitter about a casual purchase, during which Squinter pointed out that he is not in the habit of buying chocolate, provoked a response that suggested he had owned up to being the Mad Axe Murderer of Old Belfast Town.

A text message request for Squinter to pick up a bar of chocolate saw Squinter grazing the sweet shelves at a mini-supermarket near Lisburn last week, and to say he was shocked by the price of things would be an underestimation of Hoover’s free-trips-to-New-York-promotion magnitude. Squinter estimated that it was the first time in perhaps 15 or 20 years that he’d had cause to stand in front of the confectionery and seek out a product – but his perfectly straightforward and truthful claim to not having a sweet tooth brought the angry chocolate-lovers out in their droves. You’d think it was personal or something.

The heated debate missed the central truth – that those who enjoy sweets and who fork out for them on a regular basis have missed something that only someone like Squinter, who hasn’t bought sweets in ages, would be able to spot: that price-creep has brought a perfectly bog-standard bar of chocolate up to a point where it’s quite

liderallee more expensive per gram than lobster or fillet steak. Not only that, the bars are a hell of a lot smaller than Squinter remembers.

The snacks next to the sweets are worse. A 100g bag of dry roasted peanuts – that’s the little bag that’s about the size of the palm of your hand – was 95p. 95p for a bag of nuts you’d easily scoff in one go! Squinter stood with mouth agape and looked and wondered, finally reaching the conclusion that the world had gone mad while he wasn’t looking.

The boy Squinter would never have allowed things to arrive at such a pretty pass. Back in the late-60s and early-70s his life was based around the acquisition and consumption of sweets – egg ‘n’ milk chews, whoppers, Bazooka chewing gum (with the little comic strip), Spanish Gold, flying saucers. How well Squinter remembers sitting on the settee at home watching TV and hearing adults move about with coins jingling in their pockets. Why on earth, he bitterly asked himself, would anyone be loafing about the house with money on them when they could be down the corner shop purchasing all manner of delectable delights?

But no more. Some time around the onset of adolescence Squinter’s love affair with sweets ended, not in acrimony or angry words – we just kind of drifted apart with neither of us noticing, or caring. Indeed, such has been the sea-change that his palate has undergone that the last time Squinter ate a dessert with his dinner was around the time of Operation Motorman.

And so Squinter for decades passed the sweet shelves without a sidewards glance while the manufacturers pushed up the prices and pushed down the weight,  taking full advantage of the fact that Squinter fell asleep at the Wagon Wheel.

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