Week 98: Gum Part 1

Friday, 15 November 2019

Reading time 2 minute 47 seconds 

Write the theme toon, sing the theme toon – Little Britain

As a child I loved the TV show Minder. It featured two central characters, the boss, a cockney spiv wheeler dealer type named Arthur Daley who was always trying to make a few easy quid and Terry McCann his minder. He provided muscle if Arthur ever got into trouble, which luckily enough for Terry was weekly, thus ensuring he had regular work.

Arthur Daley was my hero. My entire family were like this guy. They were market traders, thieves, rogues, parents. There was always a dodgy scheme and as children do I emulated that behaviour.

The most fun I had with my money-making schemes was the chewing gum business. It was a pop up before pop ups were called pop ups.

Myself and my best mate Gary had a car washing enterprise so had stake money for the next venture and at our weekly strategy meetings asked what did our next market a captive group of fellow schoolchildren want? The answer was simple, something that’s not allowed. Chewing gum. 

Gary had heard of this place called a supermarket. They were rare back then and we had one only a bus ride away. This one was as large as our ambitions and named Asda. I know how common they are now in all sense of the word, but back then they were a wonder to behold. Huge out of town places where you could buy everything under one roof. Little old me was used to a high street or Romford market. In Asda you could buy everything and not get rained on. The future was looking good for mankind! 

Gary explained that gum sold for 20p in the newsagent yet Asda were selling it wholesale. 10 packs for 60p. It had two less sticks of gum but looked the same as a 7 stick pack. If we sold it for 10 pence per pack, we’d make 40%. That wasn’t a bad return.  

One day after school we walked casually into Asda and loaded a trolley with some Yellow Juicy fruit, White Mint and the Green One. No one knew what the Green One was back then, I still don’t today.  

The till assistant would want to know why we were buying so much and would probably report us to the police if we couldn’t answer so we concocted an elaborate story like only two 11-year-old boys could.  

We split up and took 50% of our purchase to separate tills looking like we were trying to smuggle drugs across a border. I looked over at my business partner and best friend in all the world. One of us might shortly be going to prison.  
Gary was his normal cool self, he’d get away with this and it would be me who was caught and sent to chokey. What was the punishment for trying to flood a school with chewing gum. 6 months? When you don’t know something as a kid, you fill in the blanks and they were bad blanks.  

I started to sweat, I checked the exits in case I needed to do a runner and peg it. I’m unsure why we pegged it but we pegged it everywhere for a while. 
As calmly as possible I handed the product to the assistant. To indicate how long ago it was she typed the value into the till. I handed over the money, was handed back a receipt and that was it. I nodded to Gary, he was getting the same treatment of being ignored by his till operator. We sauntered Oceans 11 style to the doors. I was Clooney to his Pitt. We were going to make it. I’d never felt more alive. My heart was pumping. The only prison for me would be a bad roll of the dice on a monopoly board. 

On the bus home we made eye contact for the first time and started laughing. We’d done it. The adrenalin high was delicious. We truly thought we were brilliant because we clearly were. We celebrated by each partaking in our product. We both know we shouldn’t but one wouldn’t hurt. He took yellow as did I. No one eats the other flavours, it’s all about the Juicy Fruit.

The next day at school was going to either go incredibly well or we’d be looking at spending years in detention due to selling illegal contraband.

To be continued…………….

Photo: A Very young me again