When I was 11 years old something remarkable happened shortly after I’d started at high school.
One of the boys in my class came to me one day and asked me where I lived, when I told him he mentioned that he was moving to my neighbourhood the following week and did I know of Cooper’s sweet shop.
Of course I knew of Coopers sweet shop, it was the centre of our universe.
“Oh” he said, “well thats where we’re going to be living, my dad’s bought the shop”
He imediately became my new best friend.
Imagine having a best friend who’s dad owned a sweet shop.
He never had to call for us, we always called for him, for when we called for him his mother would stuff our pockets full of free sweets, we stopped stealing sweets like we had done from Cooper because where was the fun in stealing when the owner just gave you the sweets ?
That didn’t stop other kids from stealing though.
We were sat in his living room one sunday afternoon, the living premises were at the back of the shop, as was the garage and storeroom, when his dad came through from the shop and stood at the window which overlooked the garage, he waited for a while, then suddenly flung open the window and started yelling at someone or something to bugger off and never come back.
It was two young kids who he had suspected for a while of bamboozling him – they were frequent visitors to the shop returning pop bottles for the threepence deposit on the bottle – nothing wrong there you may think, except for the fact that they had discovered that my mates dad stored the empty pop bottles around the back of the house until the popman collected them, the two kids would take the bottles from the back of the shop around to the front of the shop, take the money on the bottles then wait for my mates dad to put the bottles out the back again before repeating the process several more times – ingenious.
One day during the long hot school summer holidays we were minding the shop for his dad who had maybe gone for a pony and trap for ten minutes or so when a young boy walked in the shop and asked for a quarter of aniseed balls.
This being the olden days all of the sweets were sold loose, weighed out then put into paper bags, my mate indicated to me that I should serve him, I put down the Mars bar that I was chomping on at the time (hey if his dad was daft enough to leave us to look after the sweet shop then it would be criminal not to help ourselves to some chocolate) and took down the jar of aniseed balls from the shelf.
I weighed out a quarter of the small round balls, took a paper bag, poured the aniseed balls into it then stood there holding both sides of the open bit of the bag.
I’d seen his dad whiz the paper bags around in an arc to wrap the open corners together and seal the paper bag, it seemed simple enough, you just hold both open corners and with a flick of the wrist twirl it around in a 360 degree arc to complete the wrap, what could possibly go wrong ?
The wrap started well enough, the bag climbed upwards in the first 90 degrees of turn but when it reached the perpendicular, ie with the open end now facing downwards, it seemed to stop, hanging there in mid air, seemingly suspended there, time stood still as I regarded the now upside down non-wrapped bag, there was nothing I could do to effect a completion of the wrapping cycle, the bag was stuck, upside down, open.
The aniseed balls fell out onto the floor, a hundred or so bouncing pellets so beloved of small boys and dogs, bouncing all over the floor at our side of the counter.
My mate and I looked at each other horror-struck, the young kid who wanted to buy them looked at us horror-struck, I asked my mate “what do we do now ?”
He replied with the only possible answer.
So we did and didn’t stop running until we were well down the street.
The kid took all of the blame, for months afterwards my mates dad would tell us the story time and again about the young kid who came into the shop when no-one was around and tipped a whole jar of aniseed balls all over the floor and earned a bloody good clip around the ear’ole for his troubles.
Oh how we laughed.