The return of the lady of the house from a sojourn in the North brings with it an abundance of bulging bright orange Sainsbury’s carrier bags. It is observed that the urging of the Minister of Finance that people should shop around has obviously not fallen on deaf ears; a pity that shopping around means finding that almost everything is cheaper across the border.
Amongst the numerous treats brought from the North are packets of Rowntree’s Fruit Gums. Why? Do they not sell Fruit Gums here? The opening of a packet brings the unmistakable aroma of 1968.
August 1968 was my very first summer holiday. An uncle and aunt were taking me with them to Cornwall on a camping holiday. My aunt is only twelve years older than me, so was nineteen at the time, but she was my auntie and was always grown up.
We left Yeovil in Somerset on an August Saturday morning in my uncle’s little blue Simca to travel to Perranporth on the north coast of Cornwall. The journey was maybe a hundred and twenty miles, but there was no motorway and the entire population of the country seemed to be heading westwards.
All went well until we were crossing Bodmin Moor in a constant line of traffic. The heavily laden car broke down. My uncle was always very organized and an AA patrolman on a bright yellow motorcycle came along and fixed it, though the delay seemed almost unendurable for a small boy.
We reached the campsite by teatime, to join another uncle and aunt and five of my cousins. Unpacking the car brought laughter: the Simca was rear engined and my other uncle, mug of tea in hand, walked over to look into the boot at the front of the car, where all the bags were stowed, “Pat”, he called, “it’s no wonder you broke down. The car has no bloody engine in it!”
The sun shone brilliantly the next day and we descended the cliffs to the huge sandy beach with the Atlantic waves bringing brilliant white surf. Rowntree’s Fruit Gums from a yellow box were passed around. Monday came damp and misty and there was no chance of the beach; we went to Penzance and sat in the car and ate Cornish pasties looking out at the rain. By Tuesday, the sunshine had returned, the sky was vivid blue and the whole day was spent doing whatever a seven year old did for a day on the beach.
My next memory was Wednesday morning, the wind had blown down our tent and heavy rain was falling. I had continued sleeping, even with no tent over me. We packed and headed for home.
The whiff of Fruit Gums brings memories as fresh as those of last year. Odd how the brain can retain the smallest details from a four day period forty-odd years ago, yet loses completely much more recent moments.