Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Department of Don’t

‘I must not chew boiled sweets. I must not chew boiled sweets. I must not chew boiled sweets. I must not chew boiled sweets. I must not chew boiled sweets.’

Apparently you don’t chew boiled sweets. Boiled sweets must be sucked and not chewed. I don’t know exactly when this law was decreed but apparently everybody knows it and it must be followed. How on earth I have got through my life crunching on pear drops (my favourites but guaranteed to cause an asthmatic an attack apparently), lemon sherbets, humbugs, and candy twirls without prosecution is beyond me. I guess I must have been lucky.

Yes, everybody knows that boiled sweets are for sucking and should never be chewed – it is law.

Who makes these unwritten laws and why would anyone feel the need to follow them? Is there a learned body somewhere whose sole role is to invent laws about seemingly unimportant aspects of our lives; like how to eat a boiled sweet? Maybe there’s a whole department focussed on the boiled sweet issue. Maybe their brief stretches beyond mere boiled sweets to all sweet types and they spend their time making policy on how different types of sweets should be eaten. Maybe they’ve even written a paper on it.

Item 1. Ice cream should be licked and not sucked.

Item 2. Ice lollies should be sucked and not licked.

Item 3. Chocolate should be nibbled and not allowed to melt in chunks in the mouth.

Item 4. Chewing gum should be chewed at the side of the mouth and not the front.

Item 5. Sherbert should be dabbed and not scooped.

Item 6. Liquorice laces should be eaten in lengths and not balled.

Item 7. ... Well, that's the boiled sweet thing.

And so on and so forth.

Where does this stuff come from because it isn’t just sweets? ‘You’ can’t do this and ‘You’ can’t do that is everywhere – perhaps there’s a complete department of nay-saying jobsworths somewhere in Whitehall, the Ministry of Can’t or the Department of Don’t, dreaming up new things to stop us having even a little fun - ‘Don’t step on the grass, No ball games allowed, Walk don’t run, No eating on the bus.’

Will the grass really wither and die if I place my foot on it? That big empty field over there, what is it for if not to kick a ball around on? Tell me, just when does a fast walk become a run? What no eating - not even a boiled sweet? And whatever you do – don’t mention the ‘I’ word, you know... the geographical place!

It’s everywhere this silliness. We all know people who’d thrive in the Ministry of Can’t, they’d love to work on the ‘sweet problem’ – spending their lives proving that there are designated and correct ways to eat confectionary and then putting in systems and checks to ensure that nobody strays from procedure, wasting their lives proving that they are right about things that simply don’t matter.

Poor them.

There’s nothing more satisfying than the rush of flavour and the sound of the crunch as you bear down on an orange twist – and no self-opinionated, over-inflated, pompous, I-can-prove-it-with-this-diagram ass from the Department of Don’t (no matter how clever he thinks he is) is going to deny me that small pleasure – or any other come to that.


  1. Rules are meant to be broken.

  2. I used to get told off for crunching the barley sugars my elderly next door neighbour used to give me - suck them don't crunch!More fun in crunching.