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About A Week: Old Sweet Tooth

Peter Hincliffe confesses to the ownership of a sweet tooth.

The time has come to look squarely in the mirror, grit my teeth, and own up. I lie to myself. I lie to myself every day.

As I bite into yet another golden delicious apple, I tell myself, "You're a lucky man Hinch, not to have a sweet tooth. Apples do you a more good than Kit-Kats and Mars bars."

When I dip a spoon into one more tub of plain yoghurt, I'm congratulating myself, "Far nicer than jam roly-poly, or steamed treacle pud."

While peeling a banana, I'm murmuring, "This will be far tastier than a half-pound bag of butter-cream toffees."

Lies. All lies.

I do have a sweet tooth. A very, very sweet tooth. If I had just a fraction less willpower, I would be eating two bowls of sugar-frosted flakes, a king-sized Mars bar, a large Cadbury's fruit-and-nut, two custard tarts, a thickly-buttered jam scone with cream, a bag of boiled sweets . . . And all this before lunch.

Two things keep me from subsiding into self-indulgence. The fear of looking like a walking barrage-balloon, and an 11-year schooling in austerity.

Like many another, I have been brainwashed into believing that fat folk carry around in themselves a billboard announcing a weak will. I carefully consider each mouthful of food. Some folk seem to be able to trough all day to no visible effect. Me, I only have to look at a slice of cheesecake to put on an inch around the middle.

The prolonged education in austerity was forced upon me as a child, during World War II. Sweet rationing came into force in 1942. And a meagre ration it was! Twelve ounces a month. Three ounces a week.

Mrs Senior ran our village sweet shop from the front room of her terrace home. She scrupulously ensured that no one got more than their legal entitlement, determined to play her part in Hitler's downfall.

Three ounces a week was no more than a taster for a spog-hungry lass or lad. One gulp, and it was gone. We always ended up with something that would last, rather than something that we really liked.

Forget about chocolate. That was gone in a flash. A bag of jelly babies or chocolate raisins wouldn't even see you home from the shop. Humbugs were all right. They were "lasters". Poor Bens and wine gums were better still.

And gob-stoppers were best of all. These huge aniseed balls changed colour as you sucked them. Which meant that you kept on taking them out of your mouth to check on the latest surface hue. Interruptions in sucking time made for a longer-lasting sweet.

When the war ended—could it be that Mrs Senior's honest endevours tipped the balance in our favour?— the newly-elected Labour Government doubled the sweet ration to six ounces a week. That meant an occasional bag of Liquorice All-Sorts. The small cylindrical lumps of liquorice could be
made to last and last. Chocolate was still out of the question. A waste of coupons.

Sweets didn't come off the ration until February, 1953. For weeks after the happy day, I walked around with bulging cheeks. All conversation was blurred by a humbug, or an extra-large lump of toffee.

Eventually, I stopped buying sweets, apart from the occasional packet of strong mints. Hitler had been well and truly routed, but the idea had taken root that to buy all the sweets I could eat was in some way letting the side down.

That foolish thought was supplanted by the dread of becoming a fatty. I turned my face against sweets for ever and ever. Poor me!

I see from a recent report that I am out of step. Not in the chew.
Last year, the average Briton ate nearly 30 pounds of sweets and chocolates.

While I was eating 130 pounds of apples.

The other day, I bought quarter-of-a-pound of striped humbugs from a stall in the Covered Market. I ate three of them. They were delicious. For a few moments, the magical taste made me feel as though I was a boy again.
Then I got to feeling guilty. I handed the bag around the office, and soon there were no more humbugs left.

I have a dream. I dream that a time will come when I no longer give a hoot whether I am fat or thin. That each and every day, I will tuck into a Yorkie bar, half-a-pound of Thornton's toffee, a huge dish of sherry trifle, three outsize slices of cheesecake, a whole home-made blackberry pie, a jam suet pudding . . .

And I'll never touch another apple.


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