Holding a candle for the dustman


If I’d been an entrepreneurial thirteen-year-old in December 1970, I should have been buying and selling candles from the bedroom of my Balham flat.  If there’d been a queue, the punters could have occupied themselves in the next-door bathroom with my model of Stingray and fleet of plastic U-Boats.

During the “winter of discontent”, fuel supplies were low, and Ted Heath warned of power cuts.

(I knew it was Ted Heath speaking to the nation on the TV and not Hughie Green (who was normally on the telly) as he never said the word “sincerely”).

Each day I’d be sent to fetch a copy of the Evening Standard as they published when SW17 was going to be plunged into darkness.

Because my block of flats was quite labyrinthine, once the lights went out, the corridors became a black abyss. If you were an early teenager this was tremendously exciting, but then, when you realised you were completely lost, there was the overriding sense that you really should have eaten more carrots when younger.

These were the days before scented candles. There wasn’t the chance, during these blackouts, to have your flat suddenly smelling of Fresh Linen, Jasmin or Schnitzel with Noodles. There was one sort – the types you get in churches, only smaller; a strong relationship with the local ironmonger was key (or knowledge of someone who had moved on from stealing church roof lead).

If you’d asked anyone in December 1970 what Yankee Candle was, most people would have thought it was a film with James Cagney in.

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