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Fab ice lollies and childhood rules

We have been experiencing extremes of weather here in London over the last month. Three weeks ago we had the hottest April days on record. Two weekends ago it was unseasonably cold, down to 5  degrees centigrade on the last Saturday of April. Last weekend the temperatures were their highest ever for a May Day Bank Holiday. This isn’t quite as extreme as it sounds. The early May Bank Holiday was only introduced in 1978, so there are just 40 years’ worth of records to compare against. Even so we are not used to applying sunscreen quite so early in the year. The ice cream shops have been busy. I could speculate on what these extremes of temperature mean for the planet and for us as a species. “Global weirding” is a less commonly used expression than “global warming” but it seems to fit the bill. Like most of humanity I will avoid thinking too far ahead, and instead of reflecting on the effect that humankind has had, and continues to have, on our climate, I will write about something else: ice lollies (or what our American friends call popsicles).

I have posted another of my “1000 Memories”, about Fab ice lollies, on the Memories menu. Take a look. Usually I leave these childhood memories to stand for themselves, trying to avoid hindsight or adult reflection. My aim is to capture the memory in the language that I might have used at the time and leave it at that. This time, for a change, I will speculate further on the childhood rule contained in the memory, the rule that said that boys were not allowed to eat Fabs. They were for girls.

Back then there was far less choice in the chill cabinets of our local sweet shops. There would be small blocks of ice cream, ice pops (frozen liquid wrapped in plastic), choc-ices (sometimes but not always) and often just two types ice lolly on a stick: Fab and Zoom. Zoom were for boys and Fab were for girls. That was the rule, impressed upon me very early in my days at primary school. It’s quite possible that this rule only applied to a handful of us, a handful of boys in Class 1 (the equivalent of Reception) in that particular year but I have adhered to it ever since. I have also asked many of my contemporaries, some of whom went to schools with a far rougher reputation than mine, if the same rule applied when they were young. It didn’t.

The subject came up again last month, visiting an old college friend in Hove whose mother has just died. His children are younger than mine, and his freezer has a larger choice of ice creams and lollies than ours. In fact, it has a larger choice than the chill cabinets in the sweet shops of my youth. After lunch my son had two Fab lollies (or, more accurately, the Asda own-brand equivalent). He does not have to follow the rules of my childhood. I asked our hosts if they had heard about the “Fabs are only for girls” rule. They hadn’t. Some of my contemporaries from primary school have died. It’s possible that I’m the last person alive who tried to observe the rule in his childhood. It was no big deal. I always preferred Zoom.



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