Sticks of rockFeb 20th, 2011 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Personal Columns
Do they still make seaside rock?
The tube shaped stuff with a pink coating and white inner with the name of the seaside town in which you bought it in red lettering down the length of the inner, so that wherever you were in eating the stick of rock, you still knew where it had come from – do they still make that stuff?
Buying a packet of mints in a hospital shop, there was the scent that came from sticks of rock, not that there would be much of a market for seaside rock in the Irish midlands, the sea being at least 60 miles away. But why was it seaside rock, anyway? Why couldn’t inland towns have had sticks of rock with their names inset in red candy? Are there Irish seasode towns that have their own rock?
Maybe the rock wasn’t even that nice, maybe it was the association with being on holiday that gave it a special flavour, like those bottles of wine that taste well when you are away, but seem to have lost something when you bring them home.
There was good rock and bad rock – good rock was dense and became chewy if it was left in the back window of the car on a hot summer’s day; bad rock was brittle and tasted as bad as the Eastern European chocolate with which cheap Easter eggs were made, or those foil wrapped Christmas decorations that were fine when adorning the Christmas tree, but tasted horrible when eaten.
Rock came wrapped in cellopane that enabled you to eat it without it adhering to your hands. Halfway down the length of the stick of rock, inside the cellophane, there would be a photograph of the resort; a slip of paper maybe two inches long and an inch wide. It was always a black and white photograph; in an age when postcards were all in colour, seaside rock pictures were monochrome – why? What would have been wrong in having a colour picture? Was there some seaside rock system of quality control that ruled out polychrome images?
Perhaps it was the uniformity of seaside rock that secures its place in the memory. You knew it was seaside rock because it looked like seaside rock. It was always a similar shade of pink; always wrapped in transparent cellophane; always having the name of its town printed through it.
Who determines these things? The colour, the shape, the wrapping, the taste – is there a standards authority that overseas these things? Is it like the French appelation system for wine? Is there some body that ensures consumers get bona fide rock?
Who decides what is and what isn’t, what shall be and what can’t be? Is there a reason in principle why I could not buy a stick of rock in a hospital shop? Just imagine how much people’s morale would be raised by imagining they were once more on childhood holidays at the seaside. Seaside rock would probably be more beneficial than much of our health system.