I’m auntie to two adorable mischievous 11-year-old boys, and I had the pleasure trauma of visiting them on Sunday. One of these sweet-faced innocents devils-in-disguise approached me with a bag of boiled sweets.
‘Auntie Julie, would you like one of my sweets?’ he said.
‘Don’t,’ said my brother – their father.
I should have heeded his warning. Instead, thinking, how bad could it be, it’s just a boiled sweet after all, I dipped my hand in the bag. In my defence, I was playing the good Auntie – like when you know which hand the mystery vanishing thing is in, so you pick the other hand – that sort of thing.
I pulled out a yellow sweet. I presumed lemon. I figured it was probably something like a pear drop – you know, a bit sour on the outside but basically a lump of sugar. I don’t much like boiled sweets, but saw no reason to refuse.
Said innocent child devil-in-disguise smiled his usual open, gentle, sweet smile. I think I saw an evil glint in his eye, but it passed in a moment.
Cautious now, I licked the boiled sweet. It exploded a payload of acid across my taste-buds. By then I believed I knew what was in store.
‘Really, you don’t have to do this,’ my brother said.
‘Oh… I think I can cope,’ I replied. Too rash. Too bold by far.
I popped the concentrated pellet of acid into my mouth.
‘The pain only lasts about 20 seconds,’ said my brother, as my face contorted and sweat began to bead on my forehead. He lied.
A full minute later, I was grappling in my handbag for a tissue into which to expel the still sizzling, sulphurous blob before it burned a hole completely through my tongue. Sugar began to leech through the stinging citric coating, but relief didn’t come. Tissue in hand, I surrendered, spitting out the almost intact fizzing fireball to shrieks of laughter from said impish small child. It took out my lips as it exited.
‘I warned you,’ murmured my brother.
In what I can only describe as an understatement of intent, these caustic, atomic acid bombs are known as ‘Mega Sours’. They’re not kidding. Imagine the juice of fifty of the sourest lemons, extracted and concentrated into a gumball-sized sweet. Then multiply that by, oh, about another hundred thousand times.
As this poison sizzled into my tongue and assassinated my taste buds, it peeled a 55-year-old layer of enamel from my teeth. As I tried to swallow the acid run-off from this monstrous ball-of-death, I retched – my throat didn’t want to know. I tried to wash it down with a glass of water. I ingested Polo Mints. Eventually I massaged my mouth with toothpaste.
Some three hours later, trying to eat normal food, my taste buds were still comatose, my tongue still numb.
Whatever happened to tasty Toffee Bon-Bons, Liquorish Allsorts or Smarties? Pear Drops were tangy, but survivable; likewise Pineapple Cubes. Aniseed balls were about the most unpleasant thing you could torture a grown-up with. When did catastrophically caustic confectionary become the order of the day?
This morning, my mouth seems to have recovered from the assault. Breakfast tasted like… breakfast, although (to put it delicately) my digestive system chose to remind me I still had perhaps a teaspoon of undiluted acid coursing through it. This notwithstanding, I’m relieved the barest taste of a Mega Sour appears to have done no lasting damage.
What a whole bagful does to the dental status of a child, is anyone’s guess.