Thursday, March 20, 2008

2006-04-15 120Quirks of EU enlargement number 27: the girl in Waitrose has to read the coins to find out what they are.

Which is roughly related to discussions on the subject of Smarties. Having noted packs proclaiming the return of blue Smarties (an aberration originally, which then they corrected because everyone thought they caused cancer, and now strangely the Smurf Smarties are back) I found myself not only able to remember all the old colours, but their groupings by order of eating. Annoyingly I can't remember the exact order of consumption nor what each one represented.

The original order runs dark brown, light brown (although they're equal), then mauve, green and pink (the green used to vary in colour so if it was a good green it'd go after the pink, but a washed out one goes before), then yellow, orange, and finally red, although at one point I reversed this because I always had yellow things and my brother red, and then they started making the orange ones intentionally taste of orange, rather than doing so faintly/psychosomatically (I still maintain they did a bit), which confused everything.

But the aspect that's crying out to be remembered is what they all were. Each colour meant some abstract idea which would be conferred on the person eating it. But I can only remember one of them was courage. I think it was orange, although I remember trying to argue that yellow was courage, something my brother overruled (I'm glad he had a greater irony-meter than I did, or possibly had seen the right Back to the Future film [which probably would have come out after this symbolism scheme was concocted. Oh well. He knew what the American yellow meant]). Red might have been wisdom. One of the others was speed. I have a hunch we may have been drawing inspiration from my brother's comics.

One aspect of eating Smarties like this was that we could never deny it; we always used to get caught red-handed, because we ate the reds last so the colour had most chance to run (and showed more than orange or yellow).

And do you know what else I've remembered? Raisins in boxes. And my mother refilling them (and occasionally getting cross because I'd damaged the box or lost it) with raisins that were drier and didn't taste as nice.

Next I'll be remembering the sting of hail on exposed knees (bizarrely I have no memory of wearing school uniform shorts in winter to the horror of my mother's class [she taught at a nearby school so I'd go over and creep into her classroom to sit in a corner until their home-time. Apparently my bright red legs tended to attract attention], but I also have no memory of being one of the two boys to do this beyond the first year of first school the other being Thingy Dobury-Watsit from the nice-but-bright family).

Other memories of the period were the times-tables tapes, which were a whole lot less fun than the Watergate Tapes or the one with Granny's Garden on it (red broomstick or green broomstick? And that sodding bun-eating dragon). What others were there? Carousel (argh, not that pink-and-yellow music), Frogger (so much fun), Spyhunter (do-do, do-do, do-do, dilla-lal... we-wow! For hours. And much of the time I was watching my brother play), Aviator (fly through the mountains! The joys of wireframe) and the one my mother wrote in BASIC which turned the BBC into a keyboard (and not the red-buttoned qwerty type). Oh, what's the one with the... thing and the thing and the snow? 2d, one of the levels had skiing.

And what's it say about us that the number of tapes for the computer we had is probably the same as the number of audio tapes we owned (and guess who was never brave enough to put a data cassette into an audio player, having been told it makes the player blow up. I'm not sure the much later ban on me touching the CD player has been lifted yet [oh the joy of putting it on 'shuffle all', which used to leave thirty seconds of clunking and whirring as it skipped between tracks on different CDs]).

There were two yellow Classics for Children tapes, one with Peter and the Wolf on, and I can't remember what was on which tape. Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra was on one, but I the name stands out more the music, and Carnival of the Animals was also around somewhere. The Nutcracker might have been the fourth thing. But I always thought the duck was stupid. We also had a best of the sixties tape which was rarely played and something by the Beatles that had Yellow Submarine, Hard Day's Night and whichever one features the line "Lady Madonna, children at your feet, wonder how you manage to make ends meet" on, so I'm guessing a best-of. And then my brother had Pet Shop Boys tapes (he still had them when I tried playing them somewhere on the M25 to discover the intervening years and fluctuating humidity had remixed them), but they weren't allowed to be played in the car. Actually the very few tapes around probably reflect how often they got played; only ever in the car and only then on long journeys. And this is before visiting people hundreds of miles away could be done in a day. So basically we had music about as often as we had white bread, so only in school holidays (how my mother convinced us that white bread was a treat and therefore we were to demand nothing more exotic I have no idea. I think it'd be best just to stick with "well played").

And suddenly the experience of what happens when one eats a whole pack of Refreshers while bored in the back seat of a car in a traffic jam somewhere on the Ringwood Road returns. But I can't remember which car it was. It was red, but that doesn't narrow it down (ok, it does, because unlike Smarties my parents' cars have been since me yellow-I-don't-remember, yellow-I-do-that-was-actually-more-a-mustard, red-now-mine-open-door-wind-down-window-close-door-foot-on-wheel-to-do-Dukes-of-Hazzard, red-tank-with-optional-grey-trim-deployed-Hansel-and-Gretel-ly-on-concrete-bit-of-M3, green-even-worse-tank-that-ran-aground-often, too-pink-to-be-red-fun-to-drive-convertible and green-that-actually-moves-and-is-smaller-than-I-think-it-is. The brands involved in alphabetic order are Ford, Renault, Skoda, Subaru, Vauxhall and VW; I'll leave it up to you to work out which one was leprous). Could be the car I'm still driving (the one that was on the front page of the Telegraph thanks to some hippy roadhogs) as I don't remember anything falling off the car when I plunged out towards the lawnmower shop so it can't have been the other red (in the older car/my car one at least had to unscrew the knobs for the locks before they'd come off in your hand). My mother was cross, mostly because we'd just lost three places in the queue.

My car is also the one my mother drove into both banks of a lane behind the So-and-so's, because it was the dead end serving the first school and people had jammed themselves in the wider bit normally used for turning. Suddenly she didn't want nine-eights-are playing any more. We went home with soil on both ends and an intact fern sitting on the flared bit beneath the front bumper, where the trim's been hanging down ever since.

Which roughly brings me to the point. I have a car once more. Woohoo! And it has all the glass it ought to have. Woohoohoo! And I thought asking if the replacement replacement screen had been tested might be thought tactless so didn't ask. Noohoo? But they put my rear windscreen wiper back on after I'd paid and they hadn't been paid to do it, so Woohoo once more (it'd been sitting in the passenger footwell). Now all I need to do is work out if trying to take the traces of Duck tape glue off the paint will do more harm than good. And wait to reclaim my space. And sweep up the remains of broken glass I'd left until it became apparent that the car wasn't about to get scrapped (I've yet to work out how much is too much to spend. The Autoglass quote came very near, hence going local).

And now I'm worried something's going to happen to my nice car because it's parked where the neighbours complain (is the forty-five downhill into a sharp blind bend ending in a junction in a very residential 30-limit the dangerous bit or is it me parking legally on a straight thus encouraging the tobogganists to do the same on the wrong side of the road [actually three feet further over in most cases] the dangerous part?).

I think I might just go and check on it.


While I admire your dedication to cracking the cypher of Smarties colours, I must also wonder if you over-thought the whole thing. I just used to scarf them down in bulk (which would, I suppose explain your svelte frame and my considerably sturdier one).
But the system was my brother's invention; I was merely being the pliant younger sibling. Although when I asked him about it at the weekend he denied all knowledge that such a thing ever existed. So not over-thought but over-remembered.

And you're not that sturdy. More robust.
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