The 10p mix, childhood sweets and the paper shop.
Sometimes you sit chatting with friends and before you know it you are reminiscing about things from the past, talking about times you’ve spent together or childhood memories you find you have in common. Todays post is one of those visits back to childhood memories and I know I’m not the only one who will remember the treat of the 10p mix and sweets weighed out into paper bags!
In the days before the internet, my mother (as probably lots of other ‘housewives’ did) went to buy the paper for their husband ready for when he came home from work. In our house this was something set in stone - it was never to be missed and there was an air or urgency if it got close (dare I say past) lunchtime, to buy it for fear that they might have sold out! It does sound rather dark ages but it was part of the routine of my childhood that my Mum would say ‘I need to get a newspaper for your Dad.’ I think it must be quite a generational thing as even now they still do it despite the news being on the television and the ability to read it online.
Sometimes during the school holidays my mum would not have a reason to go into town and so would make a quick trip round to the ‘paper shop’ to get the newspaper. Even that in itself seems like a term from the past – are they still called paper shops? Now I’d call it a corner shop or maybe just the shop, either that or you’d call it by its actual name, Tesco express or the Spar. But we would regularly hear those words, ‘I’ve just got to pop to the paper shop’ and I’m sure you can hear the moans now of my sister and I having to hault our game to go and accompany my mum as we weren’t old enough to be left by ourselves. It was only a 5 minute walk away but on this short journey we would always manage to ask the same question; my mother must have just been waiting for it as I’m sure she knew it would be coming. The phrase uttered by I'm sure millions of children on such an errand ‘Can we get some sweets?’ Any child who has asked this question knows there are two basic answers. Theres the straight forward ‘No’ and the ever so hopeful ‘We’ll see’ which basically means that you still had to behave yourself and not moan about anything at all otherwise this tentative offering would be replaced with a no and you would be going home empty handed!
The paper shop is a memory that seems to be engraved in my mind along with that particular smell that came with them. You’d walk into one and instantly be hit with an aroma of newspaper print, sugary sweet smells that drifited from the open tubs of gummy sweets and very often a slightly wet damp smell from the well trodden carpet. The smell of a paper shop just can’t be mistaken!
The layout was simple - usually just a one room, much smaller than todays 'local' shops and without all the aisles. The newspapers would be along one side and were always on the bottom shelf where you had to bend down to get one. A cunning plan since as you reached down your face got close enough to eye up and smell the chocolate and sweets that were cleverly placed in rows of bright coloured packets just above the newspapers, tempting you into maybe just buying one. The chocolate and sweets were also in prime position of being at child eye height, where you could stand and gaze at all the bars you’d seen on the adverts wishfully hoping that you might get to try one soon. Chocolate however was the more expensive treat but if you’d managed the short walk without getting into trouble and your luck was in you’d hear those magic words ‘You can have a 10p mix’.
Ah the 10p mix, the holy grail of all sweet toothed children on thier pilgrimage to the Paper shop!
Half the fun for me with the 10p mix was that you got to pick up one of those little white paper bags and flap your hand around in it to make it billow open like the fruit and veg sellers on the market used to do. Don’t ask me why I found this quite as exciting as I did, I’m still not entirely sure why. But, if I am to be entirely honest a couple of years ago when I had to make up some 10p mix type bags for a party I still felt that same excitement every time I opened a white paper bag to put the sweets in, somehow as soon as I pull that bag of the string holding them altogether its like I'm a child once again!
There were two paper shops that I frequented most as a child one near our house and one just down the road from my Nans and I have vivid memories of each.
The one near us had a middle display aisle, not full height you could still see over it, and it was adorned with all kinds of sticky sugary gummy sweets from which to select. The tubs were always left open (no hygienic health and safety in the 80’s) but that just meant that the smell enticed you over to it. Much the same way now that as when you walk into the supermarket and smell the fresh bread cooking and you feel the need to visit the bakery before you leave the shop!
This 10p mix aisle was a sight to behold and I used to love carefully choosing my items for my bag. There was great consideration to be made about what to pick as not everything cost 1p; some things cost 2p and so you would also have to add up as you went. Who knew each time I chose these sweets there was a mini maths lesson going on! There would be plenty of discussion between my sister and I about what we would each be getting. I was quite partial to white mice and strawberry boot laces, she on the other hand liked the foam bananas or pink shrimp and the fly saucers filled with shebert. When all the decisions were finally made – I mean this was a job to be taken on seriously with meticulous care and attention to choice, I would carefully pinch the top edges of the bag and swing it around to form a seal across the top (again just like the fruit and veg sellers would do on the market!) before eagerly producing it at the counter to pay.
The other paper shop we frequented was round the corner from my Nan's house. We would spend our time down at my Nan and Grandad's during school holidays and on Saturdays and if you badgered my Nan enough she would very often give in and let you go and fetch some sweets! This paper shop had the same smell but I don’t ever remember getting a 10p mix from it. Instead this had a more old fashioned sweet shop section, behind the counter filling the back wall was wooden shelving and on it in big plastic jars were row and rows of colourful sweets all waiting to be weighed out. I loved boiled sweets, I still do and there was always so may types to choose from as well as some that I never understood who would want to buy them like liquorice all sorts! There used to be so much choice cola cubes, pear drops, mint humbugs (for the old people), shebert lemons, fairy pillows, monkey nuts and a particular favourite Tom thumb drops. It wasn't so much that Tom thumb drops tasted any different but more because they were so tiny when you asked for a quarter you got a whole bag full!
It would always take ages to choose. The lady behind the counter would be chatting away to my grandparents (they were still of the era where everyone knew everyone) and intermittently my Nan would pause the conversation to say ‘Hurry up, we’re waiting’. When you did finally choose the jar was lifted down off the shelf and the lid unscrewed, those lids were giant like palm of your hand size! The weighing scales were a retro type shop scale with a hand that bounced along the curve on the back board to tell you the weight and a great big stainless steel tray with a tapered edges for pouring out of. The sweets would tumble out the jar into the tray and I still remember the sound (I can hear it now as I write) of the hard candy clanging against the metal as they fell into it, almost like the pitter patter of rain. The little white bag would then be opened and the tapered edge from the tray would be pushed through the opening and the sweets would be poured into the bag. I spent many happy hours as a child playing sweet shops and mimicking the sales assistant using my mothers plastic baking scales!
I loved the 10p mix and jars of sweets that you used to find in paper shops, but they are much rarer now than they were in the 1980's. If someone has a sweet bar at a wedding or party I still feel that same excitement that I did as a child and if I walk past an old fashioned sweet shop I still stand staring at the jars through the window. There's some things from your childhood that never leave you and I could sit here all day naming sweets that used to love. But theres a place I know does it better that I visited a long time ago with a group of children on a residential trip and old fashioned sweet shop called Goodies in Lincoln and their website it full of every sweet treat you can remember from your past...I could spend hours scrolling through their pages!
Please note I am not affiliated to Goodies in anyway this is merely a favourite old fashioned sweet shop of mine.