My parents never had a car when I was a child. I didn’t have those trips into town sheltered from our great English weather or leisurely drives to the seaside.
No, my outings were in a boneshaker of a sidecar attached to a clapped-out Vincent motorcycle, perched on my mother’s lap and clinging to her skirt for dear life.
I remember being scared witless every time we went over a bump in the road. In those days there were no seat belts (hard to believe, I know) and we had a hole in the footwell. You just crossed your fingers and hoped for the best.
Yet I look back on those times with nostalgic fondness. Because one of the things that made those hair-raising journeys worthwhile was the small cubbyhole tucked under the seat of the sidecar.
Every Friday was payday and before the weekend my dad would hide bags of sweets in this compartment.
They would change every week and to an eight-year-old it was a real treasure chest.
I clearly recall the tantalising rainbow of mouthwatering delights, from barley sugars to zingy lemon bonbons.
There are not a lot of things one can enjoy as much whether you’re eight or 80, but I reckon chewing on a jelly baby is one of them.
Even my favourite film as a child was sugar-oriented. Who can forget the magical adventures of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory?
I would have given anything to be young Charlie Bucket, with his golden ticket to a sweet paradise.
Those days in the sidecar mean I’ll always have a soft spot for penny sweets, white mice, Fruit Salads, Black Jacks and Bazooka bubble gum.
Back then I don’t remember anybody ever saying sweets were bad for you. I don’t eat so many sugary treats these days, but I still get misty-eyed whenever I go near Gilbert’s sweet shop in Milton, Portsmouth (which is an amazing 107 years old). I find myself walking in and asking for a quarter of toffee crunch – although it’s served in grams these days.
But apart from that, it’s nice to know some things never change and that such fabulous old shops are still around to serve the nation.