WITHOUT wishing to sound melodramatic, money was tight when I was growing up on a council estate in the 1960s, so treats weren’t always easy to come by.

Luckily, my Mum was resourceful. When my Dad came home from the steelworks, she worked evenings at a cake factory and always managed to surreptitiously slip a few Fondant Fancies or slices of Battenberg under her apron at the end of a shift. (Don’t worry, Mum, no one’s going to arrest you now. It was a long time ago and they’d probably have gone to waste anyway.)

Apart from the odd pinched cake, visits to the cinema were our most special reward for being good. There was something magical about the lights suddenly going out; the red, velvety seats; the whispered conversations; the crackle of the sweetie wrappers, and the usherettes guiding latecomers to their seats with little torches.

Films that stick in my mind – and made me cry – include Bambi, Snow White, Lassie Come Home, Shenandoah and Ring of Bright Water.

But I also remember those childhood trips to the pictures for what me and my two brothers were given to eat once the darkness had descended. Instead of buying us sweets or popcorn, my Mum used to save money by smuggling in three plastic bags filled to the brim with Rice Krispies. We’d sit there, trying to make our bag of Rice Krispies last as long as possible, and that was good enough for us because it was all we knew.

My mum’s 86 now and, last week, I gave her a little treat. I took her to the pictures at Cineworld in Middlesbrough to see Dunkirk. Her brother, my Uncle Bert, was at Dunkirk and I wanted her to see the movie interpretation of one of wartime’s greatest stories.

As she took her seat, I gave her a plastic bag full of Rice Krispies for old time’s sake. “Don’t eat them too quickly,” I told her.

Despite the instruction, she’d worked her way through the bag before the adverts and trailers had finished, and my conscience got the better of me. I went back out to the foyer, grabbed a couple of packets of Maltesers off the shelf, and stood in the queue.

“That’s £6.50,” said the girl on the till when I finally made it to the front.

“It’s two bags of Maltesers,” I replied, convinced she’d made a mistake.

“Yes, that’s £6.50,” nodded the girl.

I thought about putting the Maltesers back in the rack, but there were people waiting impatiently behind me with giant boxes of popcorn, big bags of wine gums, and fizzy drinks. I panicked, handed over my tenner, and was given £3.50 change. I’m not tight but, at a rough estimate, I reckon this daylight robbery amounts to 10p per Malteser.

“Ooh, what a treat,” said my Mum when I got back to the seat and handed them over in begrudging silence.

She loved the film and, judging by the sucking noises she was making, she enjoyed her Maltesers even more. But next time, she’ll have to make do with Rice Krispies.

  • What did your mum and dad do to give you a treat in days gone by? I’d love you to get in touch at peter.barron@nne.co.uk, or 01325-720928.


THANK you to regular contributor Sue Campbell, of Gainford, for telling me about the time she was driving her three-year-old grandson, Mal, into Darlington in his grandad’s car – a black Jaguar.

Sue and Mal got talking about cars and how Mal’s Daddy had a black Audi. “So, they’re the same,” said Nana. “Not the same,” said Mal. “But they are similar.”

IAN Hall, of Helmsley, got in touch on Twitter to tell of the time he was in The Sun Inn, at Dent, in Cumbria. He took his youngest to the toilet and returned to the bar. “Dad what’s a Durex?” asked the little one. “Yeah, come on Dad what’s a Durex?” chorused the locals. Ian didn’t give details of his answer.

LISA Armes, of Durham, got in touch just after completing a seven-hour drive back from Northern Ireland. Ten minutes from home, two-year-old Jack pointed randomly at a house in Chester- le-Street and shouted: “Me go to that cottage.” “He’d clearly had enough of the car, but I’m not sure the home owners would have been impressed if we’d just turned up at their house,” said Lisa.