There was a young-one I knew when I was a lad, who’d kiss you for tuppence. She scared the livin’ bejesus out of me. For the sake of saving her blushes, we will call her Mags. As far as I was concerned she was more frightening than a movie monster. If she cornered you – you were handing over the money and getting kissed! It was an odd thing for me because at the time, I had still to discover the benefit of kissing young-ones. Now if you’re not from Ireland and not from a certain time, perhaps I can clarify a couple of things. Where I came from there were young-ones and young-fellas (boys and girls) and in terms of ‘back in them days’ tuppence was a lot of money.
Tuppence would get me a chocolate bar, not that I’d waste my money on that extravagance. If I was lucky enough to have tuppence, I’d be going for quantity over quality every time. Ten black jacks for a Ha’penny or a mouldy kiss for tuppence? No contest my friends. Forty Blackjacks – jackpot!
Of course your tuppence had another meaning in olden days where auld lads like me spring from. I still think I’m young but to some, I come from a world where dinosaurs roamed the earth and everything was black and white.
“Mind your Tuppence my dear,” might well have been good advice for two-penny Mags as she got older. I’m sure she turned out to be a lovely girl, perhaps just a bit too entrepreneurial for me at the time. Hopefully she saved her tuppence for someone nice. My mother like most women of her time, always spoke in vague terms when it came to anything sexual. There was a secret language of ambiguity that meant her generation could avoid using any words that actually had a real sexual context.
I remembering overhearing the term ‘interfered with’ when I was quite young and being baffled by its use.
“She’s never been the same,” they said, “not since she was interfered with.” Then there were the Christian Brothers telling us about it being a sin to ‘interfere with yourself.’ I looked the word up but it only confused me more, pry, meddle, disturb! How the feck do you pry with yourself? When my son was born my poor mother nearly had a stroke when I referred to his doo-dah by its correct anatomical name.
“You can’t say that! You can’t call it a…” She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word.
“Penis mam. It’s called a penis. That’s why I call it a penis.” She wasn’t overly religious which is the only reason she didn’t bless herself and call a priest. I won’t tell you what happened when my daughter came along, sweet mother above. The best part was when my five year old son used the correct anatomical word for his sister’s woo-woo using his outside voice in a restaurant. If the ground could have opened up, my poor mother Lord rest her soul, would have gladly jumped in. But I have gone away from the point… back to tuppence.
Knowing the value of money as a child was significantly more important when I was a kid than it is today. I come from a time and place where every penny counted so there was no chance that your parents would be wasting money on anything other than that which was needed. When you came across a Ha’penny it was precious. A penny or tuppence, was pretty much enough to score you a decent bit of sugar in the shops and a shilling was ‘cha-ching!’
I would deliberate my potential spending activity in forensic detail, to ensure that by the time I got to the shops I would have calculated the best value proposition for my funds. I was like an investor speculating on the stock market. I would have to decide what return I would get for my investment.
Generally I could go for the short term investment, say a choc-ice or a chocolate bar, the medium term – as many toffies or pear drops as you could get for the change in your hand, or the longer term plan which involved delayed gratification.
Short term, was fantasy stuff. I dreamed of eating the more luxurious sweet items and if I was lucky enough to have money to buy a proper big bar of chocolate, while it would be near orgasmic in its devouring, it would be gone in the blink of my little hazel eyes. The long term investment portfolio nonsense was something only people like my sister could do. Hold out to get more money until you had saved enough to get both the chocolate and the cheap and nastier small sweets, thus ensuring both long term and medium term gratification.
Not a chance – medium term was me, get as much cheap crap as possible for the funds, things that you could suck for ages and therefore drag out the eating pleasure for longer. Of course, I was never able to keep the lid on it and I would always bite through even the hardest of sweets to devour them as quickly as possible. I’d even give gobstoppers a run for their money. It was like a personal challenge that the sweet in question would even dare think that I couldn’t bite through it.
My fantasy bar was a Two and Two. For some reason most people I know, can’t remember Two and Two bars, but they were luxurious to me. There were Wibbly Wobbly Wonders, Icebergers, Super-splits, Banjo bars, Star bars, Drifters, Aztec bars, Spangles, Toffo, Topics, Pop Rocks, Pear Drops, Black Jacks, Flying Saucers, Fizzy cola bottles, Wham bars, Milk teeth, Mice, Refreshers, Dib Dabs, Fizz-bags… I could go on until I drool myself into a pile of nostalgic desire on the floor.
Every generation has its memories of their sweet delicacies, but I guess from my perspective, the value we placed on the cheapest and nastiest of them in memory terms is quite significant. Every penny was hard fought for and every purchase carefully considered. We couldn’t, nay daren’t ask our parents to buy us stuff. Whoa, not a flippin’ chance.
There was a shop near us that made home made snowballs, long before the pre-packaged ones that I still love today were ever thought of. They had thick delicious chocolate and coconut, swirling up into a cone, the very memory has me salivating.
Mags the tuppeny kisser on the other hand, never left me salivating. I was fortunately too young to be bothered with wasting my valuable money on something so vile to my little boy mind, especially when I had better things to spend my money on. People say a penny for your thoughts, in for a penny, in for a pound. I say, mind your tuppence, hopefully something young Mags did once she made her money in the kissing business… What sweets or candy would you have chosen over a kiss for tuppence I wonder?
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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