‘Kids! Get your wee bums down here.’
My mum shouted in her Glaswegian accent.
My little sister and I ran down stairs to be met with my mum holding a ten pound note. She waved it around and asked us to go across to the village shop for bread, milk and toilet roll. Boring things.
The highlight of the village I grew up in had to be the local shop. A Mecca for renting videos and buying penny sweets. I loved the village shop, it was great. All you had to do was ignore the rumours of the toenails in the quiche and it was a beautiful shopping experience. Something I’ve tried to erase from my mind was the time I was sent to the shop to buy mushrooms and the shop keeper woke up the sleeping cat who was using the mushrooms as a bed, shooed her away and blew the cat fur off them.
We’d often go in there with one penny each and take a ridiculous amount of time choosing between a strawberry shoelace, a cola bottle or a mini marshmallow. We were easily pleased. Back then we used to think ‘Our Mummy is so generous’ in retrospect I now realise what a genius move that was, and a stingy one at that.
The sweeties I always begged for were pink Bubbalicious bubble gum. We were never allowed bubble gum, it was banned in the Passeri household and for a very good reason. We could barely keep it in our mouths. I lost track of the amount of times I had to have it cut out of my hair.
The local shop was run by Mrs E, she was a lovely old lady. Thick jam jar glasses, long tartan skirt and one brooch too many on her jumper. She knew everything and didn’t care who she clipped round the ear, it was in the past, people didn’t mind back then. I was convinced I saw a mouse in the living room, I was terrified so I asked Mrs E if I could borrow her mouse trap (standard village banter).
Once we’d finished with it my mum sent me over the road to return it to her and to bring back some tomatoes for our pasta that evening. I handed back the mouse trap that was in a white paper bag and said that my Mum had asked for tomatoes. Mrs E was such a resourceful woman and couldn’t bare to see a perfectly good paper bag go to waste, so she put the mousetrap back in it’s drawer and put the tomatoes in to the paper bag. The bag that had only seconds ago had a mouse trap in. A used mouse trap I might add. She was a very thrifty lady but was hardly going to win awards for hygiene. Even as a kid I knew this was madness. I handed over the money, said bye to Mrs E and ran across the road back into the house and explained to my mum what had happened. I had one hand on my hip and the other flying around in the air for extra dramatic effect. Spot the mini Italian. I relayed the event to my Mum as if it was the hottest gossip to have ever passed through the village. Which it certainly wasn’t. In my opinion the juiciest gossip was that 3 couples from the posh end of the village were swingers, the evidence was that all the kids looked the same and that the parents were tired in appearance and smug from all the swinging.
Back to the ten pound note that was being handed to us. This is a moral conundrum – do we do as we were told or do we abuse her trust to live out our child like dream. Tricky one. Guess what we did? We went absolutely berserk…The world was ours. I was 9 years old, my little sister was 5 and we were in possession of more money than ever before, not too much money to know what to do with, oh we knew alright. I was going to buy pink, sugary Bubbalicious bubblegum and lots of it! We ran across the road to the shop.
Paper bags were filled with sweeties we were never normally allowed. The ones that Mrs E needed a ladder for. Chocolate mice, pear drops, strawberry bon bons…the delicious albeit forbidden list went on. We even got Mrs E to put in a few blue sweeties, these were another strictly prohibited thing in the Passeri household. My brother is Autistic so all those colourings and E numbers send him wappy and my little sister and I were a little bit nutty (not a medical term). The whole time Mrs E kept asking
‘Are you sure your mum said all the money was for sweets?’
Shit. We’d been rumbled.
I pulled my little sister to one side and whispered ‘listen, we have to get something else to make it look more realistic, she knows mummy would never let us have more than one sweetie each.’
My little sister nodded in agreement. We shuffled back over to the counter, I did my best grown up voice and said ‘we’d also like to purchase 2 carrots and a bin bag.’
‘Okie dokie sweetheart’ we’d got away with it! Part 1 complete. Part 2 was a little more complicated, we had to explain this to our mum.
My mum told us that this crime would send us to prison and we should pack a bag before the police arrive and take us away. We burst into tears. As a bargaining tool we said she could have all the sweeties, including my beloved Bubbalicous bubble gum. She thought for a moment before agreeing to the offer, took the sweets from my hands and phoned the police man and said it was okay. Phew, that was a close one.