Thursday, June 10, 2010

Suck Rock



A long, long time ago in a land far far away, our idea of a jolly good Summer holiday chaps, was a trip to Wales with the family, the dog and sometimes the odd hangers on of a relative or more. This was what middle class families with children did.  Once a year, packed up the station wagon, kids and dogs, no seat belts of course and Dad’s trilby would be squished before we’d left the driveway. There’d be luggage on the roof rack and the rest packed in the back. The back seat would ring out Ten Green Bottles’ because there was no radio or we'd play ‘Snap’ before succumbing to ‘Are we there yet?’ not half an hour into the trip. 

Things were made more bearable for being punctuated by a picnic stop somewhere about half way where we ate scotch eggs and cold sausage rolls or cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches and drank tea boiled on a little portable Gaz stove.

I’d be peering about for a glimpse of anything that resembled a horse, yeh I was one of THOSE kids. My brothers, generally would be attempting to beat themselves up and my sister, since she is 9 years my junior was barely a twinkle in her daddy’s eye during these times. Refuelled and repacked, we’d wend our way to such exotic climes as Anglesea, Swansea, Oxwych and Harlech.

Our destination mostly comprised what was advertised as a “Quaint Welsh Cottage” and without the benefit of internet, we relied heavily on some sheep shagger to assure us that it was clean, dry and suitable for a family of five. It rarely was. Although we stayed somewhere once with pink bedspreads and a Golden Retriever called Flak.

Almost always, it translated into a a far-to-small damp farmhouse with moss growing on the inside, poorly appointed kitchen and a dunny on the outside. Hey, we were on holidays so the most dire of circumstances seemed more tolerable. Happy as larks and excited to be seeing the sunshine the days were long and the sea was warm and there would be sweets and ice cream and very little to complain about.

Invariably the sun would shine and we’d all become terribly burned because of course, nobody really knew what sun damage was back then. We froze in the Irish sea whilst my mother, ever the wise beachgoer, surrounded herself with a canvas wind break and made a cup of tea . . yes . . on the travellin’ Gaz stove.

My wonderful father, no matter what the weather, and a man who had clearly outgrown the age where he no longer had nerve endings like us children, would bravely wonder into the surf under the pretext of fun yet in reality to supervise. 

When I look back at the expression of excruciating joy on his face, I now understand it was probably due to the pressure of his testicles retreating due to North Sea shrinkage. This also explains his absolute passion for building boats in the sand. It preoccupied us to the point that we almost forgot there was an ocean to be conquered and ensured he could remain dry and relatively warm. Smart man that.

Of course no holiday would be complete without the consumption and purchase of ‘Rock’.  Nope, not a gemologist or a geologist among us, this was the rather odd English tradition of buying a literal pink pole of candy with a white centre,  usually with the name of the holiday location very cleverly spelled around it’s white circumference.

Rock according to Wiki is a type of hard stick-shaped boiled sugar confectionery most usually flavoured with peppermint or spearmint. It is commonly sold at tourist (usually seaside) resorts in the UK (like Brighton or Blackpool); in Ireland in seaside towns such as Bray and Strandhill; in Denmark in towns such as L√łkken and Ebeltoft; and – surprisingly in Sydney and Tasmania, Australia. 

Although I can safely say that I have never seen a stick of rock among the stuffed Kookaburra’s which laugh when you press their bellies even though they are made in Taiwan and the plethora of hats with unused corks dangling from them that seem to grace our tourist shops.

Yes this sweet pole of stickiness would have younglings sucking quietly and pensively whilst increasing our glycemic index and unwittingly feeding our Streptococcus mutans, totally unaware  that we were demineralising our tooth enamel and encouraging dental caries. Hey, we were sucking candy, sweet, sticky, tongue stainy, lip stickin’ gorgeous holiday candy.

Rock being highly prized, meant that much was purchased as gifts for those who were less fortunate and had not managed a summer holiday in a Welsh cottage of their own. Or indeed for those more fortunate, who’s parents had seen fit to take them to the Costa del Sol or Majorca for their summer vacation. 

Of course those children returned with  little more than a golden tan, grass skirts, sombreros and castanets not a chunk of rock from Swansea. Poor things. How they must have suffered.



Get yer laughing gear around a stick of that kiddies!


Check out Theme Thursday and see what the other punters do with "Candy".

33 comments:

Alan Burnett said...

Ah what memories you bring back. Mind you, you were lucky to find a Welsh town with a name short enough to fir inside a stick of rock. It was always known as the Dentist's Best Friend because of its ability to take great chunks of your teeth out.

nick said...

Ah, I remember plenty of rough and ready holidays like that when I was a kid. And yes, we enjoyed them because in those days that was what holidays were all about. I never did like rock though. Too hard and too sweet. Which is maybe why I still have all my teeth.

Tom said...

20 hour car drives in the rear facing back seat of a ford statio wagon, and no a/c? yeah...those were the days. but the beach was always tons of fun.

River said...

I LOVED rock as a kid. I've no idea how the heck we managed to get some, but get some we did, every summer. I always chose the peppermint kind.

Mim said...

We didn't have Rock here in the US, but I can relate to the rest of your story - esp the part about your dad and the ocean. I remember my dad in the ocean once...but never thought about shrinkage and the associated cramped feeling.

Carolina said...

You know how to tell a story. Very enjoyable read. ;-)

Gledwood said...

What a glorious description of holidays past! Did the car smell of plastic seating and industrial carpet? Did it ever break down on the way? Even as recently as the late 70s/mid-80s I remember our family cars being wont to break down at the most inconvenient moments, often in the middle of nowhere. I also remember waking up in a stationary car on a lonely road in a dark forest after midnight. A loose-chipping had smashed out our windscreen and we had to wait for the AA (I think) to come put it right at the roadside. There was a nostalgia phone-in about this not long ago, and it's true. Cars did used to be far less reliable than they are today!
Remember that guy who played "Jaws" in Moonraker? I heard his metal teeth were insured for however many million and the gimmick clause in his contract said "no rock".
I think Amy Winehouse's contracts say that too, only the rock she likes has no words through the middle~!!
;->...

Brian Miller said...

i want some rock. lol. building boats on the beach is a sure cure for testicle migration...but you did make me think of vacations past...wish i got one this year...

Lorna Lilo said...

That stuff is a dental weapon of mass destruction.

JeffScape said...

Tooth enamel is overrated.

Ocean Girl said...

I could do with one right now.

blackwatertown said...

Your Dad was a genius. Keeping you all and himself out of the agonisingly cold Irish Sea. It was my Dad who'd be trying to get the rest of us in. If only we'd come up with sufficiently challenging sand projects to distract him.
It was so cold in that water.

laughingwolf said...

can't say we had any here, but i do recall some candies in the shape of cigarets and cigars...

Roy said...

Great story! We have something like that here in the US. They're thinner and longer than that Brighton Rock, but they are barber-pole striped and flavored with peppermint, and here they're called Peppermint Sticks. In the Baltimore, Maryland area where I grew up they were part of a local Summer treat - you stuck the peppermint stick into half a lemon and sucked the lemon juice up through the stick, making a great, refreshing instant lemonade flavored with mint. I don't know if they're still a local treat down there nowadays, but when I was a kid they were HUGE in Spring and Summer celebrations: our annual elementary school May Day fair, the Baltimore Flower Show (an outdoor fair held in a park downtown every June; we used to skip school to go there in my high school years), and the second leg of the Triple Crown - the Preakness (see, I managed to work in horses for you!).

Gee, your post brought all that back! I'm gonna have to go buy some lemons and a strip of pepperment sticks now.

Janice said...

"Sweet pole of stickiness"...I love the flow of that. Fun memories.

Don't Bug Me! said...

Thanks for bringing back all kinds of memories. One of the things that I will be forever grateful for is the fact that my parents always took us on a 2 week holiday every summer. OK, so it may have only been to Wales, or Irelend or the Lake District. OK, so it was usually cold, it often rained and the accomodations were often dodgy, be they an old cottage, a caravan, a tent or even a horse drawn caravan. But we always had fun, we always laughed a lot and we always had a lot of sweets to eat.

California Girl said...

I don't know if I'm going to get my TT done today. I like reading 'em tho'.

We had and still have rock candy and it looks like clear quartz. I LOVED it as a kid. But it's just pure sugar. aaarrggh! Still get a twinge when I see it in the old fashion general store where I now live.

tori said...

I loved reading this! how uncomplicated and simple the times seemed back then!

Jill said...

I should like to try this rock! I have a tremendous sweet tooth!

The vacation sounds heavenly. SKIP all the modern conveniences and rely on creativity to entertain!

Grannymar said...

We stayed home and drove to Dollymount Strand everyday - all eight of us in the car and not a seatbelt to be seen. We had a Primus Stove that needed matches, Methylated Spirits and Paraffin to get it going. We brought all the water we needed for drinking during the day, the kettle etc to make tea, a loaf of bread, butter and whatever cooked meat and salads were in the kitchen. BUT WAIT FOR IT... We had a huge pot of potatoes to boil on the Primus! Boiled potatoes with salt and sand had a taste all of their own! Who said Happy Days? I was always frozen, burnt and freckled at the end of the day. To this day I hate swimming even in a heated pool!

Ms. Gibson said...

Suck Rock? Ha. I've seen similar things here in the States. They were candy crystals, or something like that.
Here's to happy memories of no seat-belts, no SPF 30+, and plenty of suck rock!
cheers.

Jingle said...

have a fun day today!

steph said...

Loved that! Baino

Thanks for bringing back all those familiar memories.

What puzzles me is... how on earth did my parents manage to fit four kids, plus all our clothes, plus food for the holiday (families rarely ate out in those days) into the back of a Ford Anglia?

AngelMay said...

That looks absolutely YUMMY! I want some!

Ronda Laveen said...

That sounded like our every vacation from the time I was 7 until I was 12. Except we didn't have those cool sticks of candy with writing inside and we drove the the Santa Cruz beach.

The Man at the Pub said...

Rock'n'Roll.

You must try Castlemaine Rock Baino. They make it in town in Central Victoria and it's a bit touristy, but you can find it in good Australian lolly shops. It's golden coloured but has a mild mint flavour. Yummo!

kj said...

aw, hells, i can't go to new york city tomorrow without stopping by to say hi. you'd think i was going somewhere for a month instead of two nights.

your writing is getting more and more consise and compelling. this line is so vivid:

'Although we stayed somewhere once with pink bedspreads and a Golden Retriever called Flak."

what an image you deliver!

hey! i love you! don't forget!

ms. kj

Megan said...

Summer is here, here! Last day of school today. Oh how I wish we had a cottage-y holiday planned.

Like Ronda, we spent many days and nights in Santa Cruz. Those trips were always the best. Disneyland, shmisneyland. Give me a week in the sand!

Mrsupole said...

I can't remember where it was that we once found some of those rock sticks with the name in them. We bought it for the girls and it was many years ago.

I have watched them make these on the Food Network and it is amazing how they get the words written inside of it. They are truly artists in their own right.

I do love when a candy cane gets all gooey and chewy.

God bless.

Babysis said...

Hey you know what - I may not have been privvy to those long summer holidays the rest of you lot took, but I do know that you CAN get sydney rock at The Rocks - there is a sweet shop there that makes it and will even make it with your OWN name in it.......how cool is that!!!

Besides, I did get the best of the Ozzie summer holidays - much warmer - seem to remember Dad being quite the gay little swimmer here too! Maybe his testes were a little warmer?

Ah happy days!

Dot-Com said...

Less than a month ago a friend of mine brought me back "rock" from her trip to Australia. Green and yellow, so it was!

Jaime said...

my teeth hurt just thinking of how sugary that rock would be.

Vagabonde said...

I like reading your memories. One year I went back to England to my pen pal in the summer and her family drove us to the Isle of Wight for a week. I was the same type of holiday as you described. I really enjoyed it – it was different from my summer holidays in France. My father stayed home and my mother and I took the train to a Normandie beach where we would rent an apartment for the month. It was nice, but kind of lonely as I did not know any other kid and had only my mum to play with. I did a lot of reading.