Like many people, Saturday has always been my favourite day of the week but the reasons for this have changed over the years. As a child, I longed for Saturdays to come around not simply because there was no school and — even better — (and may God have mercy on my soul) no church. But also because that was the one day of the week we were allowed sweets.
Dad was a dentist, I had seven brothers and sisters and mum was a housewife, so money was tight.
Any one of these factors might have curtailed a person’s access and ability to pick’n’mix, but all together they conspired to deprive me of my God-given right as a child to a sweet tooth.
Or at least that’s how it felt as I walked past the corner shop on my way home from school and watched as my classmates emerged one by one clutching little white paper bags stuffed with sparkling pear drops and fluorescent penny chews, while I had to make do with a small, hard, home-grown apple reluctantly retrieved from the bottom of my satchel or, worse still, a raw carrot.
While they gnashed and crunched their way home, tossing me the occasional consolatory glacier mint that had slipped unnoticed into a bag and no one else wanted, I used to content myself with the thought that the twinkling sugar between their teeth would one day be replaced by the glint of mercury fillings. Only then would I be able to smile with my pearly whites all gleaming and intact and feel fortunate rather than deprived.
But for six days of the week I craved confections, drooling during the chocolate adverts on TV... “They came in search of Paradise ... and they found it ...!” and licking my lips in time to the tantalising tune of “Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate, tastes like chocolate never tasted before ...!”
But then on Saturdays — or “Sweetie Day” as it was affectionately known — for one glorious day only, the ban was lifted. By then I had already planned out exactly how my precious “thre’penny bit” pocket money was going to be spent and what precisely was going to be shook into the shop-keeper’s scales, right down to the final midget gem.
Even now, 40-odd years later, my mouth still waters at the memory of the Saturday morning walk back home from the shop, oblivious to everything except my cache of cough candy and cherry lips and parma violets and black jacks ... aah, such sweet, sweet memories!
Nowadays, as a single mum with two kids at school, I love Saturdays for much more mature reasons.
For a start, it’s everyone’s day off, even mine. There’s no frantic school runs to do and no packed lunches to make; no uniforms to iron or homeworks to check.
Typically, instead of a shrill alarm clock at 7am, I’m awoken by a fluffy dog licking my face or by my bedroom door creaking open as one of my boys brings me a coffee. In which case, this will usually be accompanied by a polite request along these lines: “Er, mum, will you be able to take me to HMV this morning? I want to get a new DVD with my pocket money.”
Often, if the kids are spending the weekend with me, we might then go on to the movies. And it just so happens that in the cinema foyer they have the best pick’n’mix in town. So, on passing I might just pop a couple into a bag.
Purely for the kids though, you understand.
It’d be a terrible waste not to.