Sunday 29 January 2012

"Sweet" memories

I remember a time when all of life's little upsets, scrapes and bruises could be soothed by a dip in the sweetie tin. The sweetie tin lived up on a shelf, visible but just out of reach in the pantry. It was garishly bright and quite old fashioned ~ featuring a scene including goose, pig, red and black spotted dalmation, sheep, donkey, hen and duckling variously kitted out in bonnets and aprons. The sweetie tin, once the lid was off, had a curious smell, quite unique. It spoke of years of sugary confections, layer upon layer of fruit flavourings, jelly colourings, sugar frostings and dusty coatings.
Years later I saved the sweetie tin from a Magpie cull, she was moving house and we were busy newspapering all in sight. There it was, just the same as ever, I took the lid off and found myself transported back to a 1970's kitchen, chocolate brown and daisy chained.

Last week I decided to play around with bits and bobs here in my kitchen, it needed cheering up. All the Christmas finery removed it felt a little austere, I began rootling around in the bottom of the dresser and there shining from the very back corner was the sweetie tin."Yes" I thought. I took it out, popped it open and took a breath of childhood.

My Dad was a real life Willy Wonka back then, a mind full of tall tales and a garage stuffed full of Arrow Bars, boxes of Fruit Salad, Chewits and more...You may think that with such riches available we were the most popular kids in the village, but these were strictly out of bounds. And anyway, tearing into the kitchen with a freshly blooded knee, only a calm assessment of the wound by Magpie followed by her prescription from the sweetie tin would do.
When, so poorly I had to be put to bed, my  Dad promised me some special pills to make me feel much better and off he went, returning some time later with a pink striped paper bag containing 3 "pills". "Not to be taken all at once S-J-B!" he said "as these are very strong medicine, I will trust you to take them only when you really need them." "OK Daddy," I said all wide eyed with wonder as he tucked the bed covers under my ears.After he had gone I carefully broke each tablet into as many tiny pieces as I could and stashed the bag in my Winnie the Poo tin ( a real treasure too!). I kept those pieces for months, only taking the smallest morsel when all else failed. I believe the Latin name for this elixir is "Jazzles," back then they were rainbow drops. Chocolate buttons with sprinkles.

At school I was a great advocate of the rainbow necklace. Bought during morning break from the Tuck shop and then quickly snaffled under my shirt collar. Sweets were not allowed in the classroom, they could only  be eaten during breaks. During particularly taxing lessons I would shove my chin under my tie and collar, flick the elastic with my tongue and suck. Poor Magpie, so many soggy grey blouses.
Granny understood everything about dolls and tea-parties and regularly allowed me to rattle and shake her finest tea sets, all flowery chintz patterns with gold filigree. She also understood that scale is everything when entertaining teddies and rabbits and so she always had packets of iced mini gems on tap to be served upon piles of paper doilies. Some of which were painstakingly hand coloured in felt tip ink, most of which ended up on the finest bone china. She would smile and we would sit at the back door step with a bowl of hot fairy water and scrub them.
The sweetie tin is early sixties I think, by a company called Bluebird Confectionery ~ famous for" break your teeth on it toffee" so hard that you had to hammer it in order to break it into pieces! I must ask my Dad if he had any connection...
The sweet smell of things past - so evocative don't you think?

Oh bother, resistance is futile, been humming it quietly in my head for some time now...may as well let rip, do join me..a one two three four...
Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with chocolate and a miracle or two
The Candy Man, oh the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie
The Candy Man can, the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good

The Candy Man makes everything he bakes satisfying and delicious
Now you talk about your childhood wishes, you can even eat the dishes

Oh, who can take tonorrow, dip it in a dream
Separate the sorrow and collect up all cream
The Candy Man, oh the Candy Man can
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good...



  1. haha! it would be rude of me not to join in with you & sing-a-long! i love willy wonka & that song from the film is the best!! :)) love the sweetie tin idea, what sweet memories indeed. i have a 'tuck box tin' full of crips & choccy but not a sweetie tin! how fab! i may have to search for a tin & some popping candy xx

  2. I loved reading this post, it took me right back especially the sweetie necklaces on elastic.
    Ann x

  3. What a lovely post brought back many good memories of sweet feasts and buying fruit salads and black jacks for 1p each!
    Hope your tin won't be put to the back of the cupboard again!
    Sarah x

  4. Thank you for taking me back to such happy memories!

    Lou xxx

  5. Lovely nostalgic post,took me back to My childhood too,My favourite sweets were hard boiled rosebud sweeties which I ve never found since being older,lots of love juliexxx

  6. What a lovely cheery post to read on a very cold winter's night.
    Must have a toffee now !


  7. Oh crickey Sarah - what a fabulous post all sprinkled with sugar and my childhood favourite......... sherbet pips - by the quarter. None of this 100 g nowadays malarkey.

    Truly scrumptious.

    Nina xxxx

  8. Sarah Jane,,

    The necklaces! I remember doing the same thing.
    Oh, and what a mess those sticky sweets would make on your neck - but who cared?

    Not me.


  9. What fun! I wonder did we all measure our childhoods in confectionery - Curly Wurly, Caramac, Sherbert Dip, Black Jack - I know I did and clearly you did too. Great post :D

  10. What an enchanting post, I had to read it twice over for such lovely memories of sweeties and nostalgic feelings. I love candy necklaces!

    Sam x

  11. How funny, we never had a sweet tin but our neighbours did and thats where I got my nick name from Beanie [jellybeans].

  12. Such a lovely post. Full of special memories. I love the 'pills' your dad gave you, what a clever man!
    Lisa x

  13. Oh what memories! I had a craving for fruit salads when I was pregnant and sent hubby on many a search for them. Our sweet tin when I was small included Mars bars cut into 1/2" pieces. We were only allowed one piece at a time - oh, how times have changed, my kids would think I was mad if I suggested they only ate one sweet!! xx

  14. This is a beautifully evocative post full of sweet recollections of our happies childhood moments. I used to love buying a quarter pounder of sweets in a white paper bag with my best friend... and eating far too many of them ;-)


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    1. I remember all these only too well - they're probably the reason I have a mouth full of fillings. But it was worth it!

  16. A lovely post!
    Like petit-ange^ my Mum used to cut a Mars bar up into slices and we'd all have a piece. We really relished it.

  17. Great post, made me giggle Love love love fruit salads!

  18. Such memories! They just don't make sweets like they used to! How many children today will still remember sweets of 2012 forty odd years later? Not many I bet :-)

  19. Lovely, lovely post.

    These days one feels such GUILT if eating anything chewy and sugary, but really in moderation, as a treat, out of a lovely tin up on the shelf - well, is it really so bad?

    Plus we have a wonderful sweet shop in Ledbury - selling cherry lips and teacakes and bon bons etc. Think I am going to have to create a sweetie tin!!


  20. Yes, now, well, in the latest post, I got rather excited about the rabbits and was just going to say, 'my sugar must be off' but it isn't MEeeee who's been into the sugar!

    Sarah-Jane! Your mother's sweetie tin - still smelling the same - you've got childhood in a bottle, there. It's absolutely wonderful! Your words are beautifully evocative!

    This Christmas, I fulfilled a dream of mine. I have six clear, green tinted bottles in the shape of little houses with chimneys. I went to the Vermont Country Store (where their candy USED to be a penny) and bought bags to fill the jars and, then, slowly doled them out - especially after Christmas when all of the cookies and cakes were gone. The boys were wild about it (in the nicest way =]) I was addicted to the chocolate discs with rainbow sprinkles. We call them nonpareil. Finally, in one spectacularly happy day, I fed the whole lot to the boys - I couldn't resist them a moment later and needed them to disappear into someone else's mouth!

    Anyway, I love this post!=]



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