My Mother was giving her grandson breakfast last week-end.
‘Mmmmm, Bruno is eating all his porridge’, he said.
As I reached out a spoon towards his bowl I heard her say, ‘Mummy might find it a tiny bit on the sweet side’ and I thought a look of panic flashed across her face.
Before I could ask why everybody was talking in the third person, the flavoured oats had reached my mouth.
‘Holy mother of Almighty God! Is there any porridge in this bowl of Tate and Lyle?’
If all the sweeties lived over the sea,
What a good swimmer Bruno would be.
My mother has either never heard of this ditty or thinks that swimming is an over-rated skill, as she has taken all the sweeties and brought them back over this side of the water, within easy reach- the second drawer of the kitchen cabinet, to be precise.
When most people were commiserating as Bruno started teething, my mother was filled with an unnatural excitement, grabbing her coat and and a trolley, to wheel home catering quantities of jelly babies.
The product of a sweet-deprived war-time childhood in Australia, my mother equates the little sugary treats with the bedrock of innocence.
Like an uneducated man pushing his son into the medical profession, she is making it her job to ensure that Bruno never has to reach into his jeans pocket and find no lollipop there.
As I sanctimoniously buy sugar-free animal biscuits, flavoured with natural grape juice, this phenomenon has served to make me feel even more like a cartoon London mother.
It has also caused me to reflect on my own relationship with the heavenly cane plant, whereupon I conclude it is one of unhealthy dependency or, to call it what it is, a crippling addiction.
And as if I couldn’t deduce how it came about, my mother is now unwittingly leaving me pear-drop sized clues:
‘And you were hiding in the garden and I said, if you don’t come here this instant there’ll be no double chocolate chip gateau with clotted cream and toffee sauce for your pudding.’
This sweet hard-wiring most vividly began during my first year at boarding school, where my mother drove me every Sunday evening, armed with a Woolworths ‘booty bag’: a variety pack of the most advanced tooth-rotting agents known to man.
It was as if she were getting a back-hander from GlaxoSmithKline, to research the shortest route to disintegrate a child’s set of gnashers.
Buried in duvet, smuggled bag under one arm, panda under the other, sniffing into my pillow, with a black-jack tongue and jaws adhered together by a fruit salad; so it was I segued into week-night dreamland.
Then greeted on a Friday afternoon with a large plastic bag of flying saucers, racing through dormitory stories with a crazed look in my eyes and the residue of white powder on my school uniform.
From here, of course, only a short step to the hard stuff: cola bottles, kola cubes, cough candy, candy floss, shoestrings, strawberries, snakes, honeycomb, wham bars, licorice, bananas, fried eggs, pink oysters and flumps, flumps, flumps.
Despite a near-obsessive dental hygiene routine I came to know my dentist as ‘the White Angel’ and twenty plus years later the legacy is still unfolding.
To date: 8+ mercury fillings, several amalgams, 2 extracted nerves, a brace of root canals, one reconstruction and a false tooth.
Via a McCauley Culkin episode on a mid-Lothian ice rink, in my twenties- head clutched in hands- screaming for someone with a pick-axe, to hammer open my head.
I can tune into radio stations just by smiling and experience complex psychological states in the tooth-whitening sections of supermarkets.
Nowadays, it’s mostly about chocolate, the grown-up sugar-lover’s drug of choice.
And yet when you’re stuck in traffic and remember there’s a tube of chewits down the side of the car door; when you’re queuing at the post office and find a packet of sweet cigarettes at the bottom of your bag; when a fizzy dummy accidentally drops out of the bag the nice lady at the newsagents gave to your little one… there’s nothing quite like it.
But only for Mummies.