I was raised on the mean streets of Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Like most kids from this godforsaken town I was loved and cherished by my parents whilst being simultaneously fucked up by them. But there was one area of child rearing at which mum and dad truly excelled.
In our kitchen on the big white cupboard sat what was colloquially termed The Sweet Tin. Within said tin alongside sugared jellies and old bits of licorice resided any number of chocolate morsel treats. I was allowed to visit The Tin as often as I liked. I was the kid with a key to the city.
And guess what? I wasn’t bothered. Sure, on occasion I would pull over the old wooden chair, balance precariously on tiptoe and slide the thing off the high shelf, but generally speaking, because the chocolate was always there, I could take it or leave it. Herein lay the genius inherent within my parents thinking.
There was a girl who lived on the other side of Harpenden called Loveday. Her mum may have been certifiable but I liked Loveday so I used to go over and play. Every year Loveday had a birthday (she was, afterall, a normal human being unlike her mum. Have I mentioned her mum? She was a fucking lunatic). Loveday’s birthday was the one occasion in the year when she was allowed to eat chocolate. Every year I would fight my way through the street gangs of Harpenden to attend her birthday party and every year it would end with Loveday yacking into a bucket containing the chocolaty contents of her stomach.
A few years ago I quit smoking. I promised myself I would do this when I turned 30 and, raised as I was in the harsh environment of Harpenden, Herts, my will of iron didn’t let me down. Yet suddenly, in the absence of cigarettes, I turned overnight to chocolate. Suddenly, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Worse still to follow when soon after I began freelancing. These days I can nip out for a newspaper only to return with three different chocolate bars, all of which have to be consumed within five minutes.
And the moral of this story? Never give up smoking.