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My dad had the best job in the world for any kid: he owned a sweet shop at the seaside, writes Mike Simkins




He'd given up a career in the civil service before I was born after suffering a stomach ulcer through stress, and obviously decided that the life of a confectioner by the sea would be more restful. He was wrong, but it meant I had a blissful childhood.

Running a confectioners (we also sold tobacco, newspapers and chemists sundries) was so arduous and exhausting that he and Mum never really had time to check on how many sweets I was eating, and consequently I had full reign. As long as I didn't push my luck I could have whatever I wanted, so by the age of six I could down a family-sized bottle of Cream Soda and a Crunchie bar in less than a minute. I may have been as large as a house but I was never short of friends.

It was in the sweet shop, too, that Dad (second left in the photo - I'm in front, of course) nurtured one of my great passions, that of cricket. Most nights when the shop had emptied of customers he'd stand behind the counter and bowl a tennis ball to where I stood in the well of the shop, clutching a child's bat and pretending to be Colin Milburn or Jim Parks. Eventually I became  quite good, and thus his reward for all these hours of parental indulgence was the systematic demolition of his stock as I smote the ball to all parts: scuffing the greetings cards, knocking great dents in his chocolate gift boxes and destroying his carefully prepared window displays. But he never complained.

Even better still, he was also in his spare time a very accomplished dance band musician. My earliest memories of him are of him going out on Friday and Saturday evenings with his tenor saxophone in the early 1960s to a gig at some swanky hotel or private party. Next day his tuxedo, hanging up by the stairs, would give off intriguing and exotic aromas of this other nocturnal life - cigars, hair gel, and the occasional heady scent of ladies perfume. In his prime he resembled matinee idol Ronald Colman, and consequently was 'a bit of a dasher.'

Thus, forty years on, the three great loves of my life are sweets, cricket and music. Which isn't a bad legacy for any parent to leave their son really. He was a fabulous, flawed, kindly man with just a hint of roguishness. I miss him still. 

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