Saturday morning arrived and woke me with the gentleness of a sledge hammer. I stared at the alarm clock, blinking to try and bring it in to focus. My head felt like it was trapped in a vice and my mouth was seemingly full of cat litter. I got out of bed and peered out of the window, as the morning sun flooded the room I felt like a vampire caught out in the daylight. As I stood there, blinking in the light, the dog came and sat in front of me. He looked at me with his head cocked to one side, passing some kind of canine judgement on my aching hung over state. I stumbled down stairs in search of water, the dog wanted to go out so he barked at me, the sound of woofing completing my misery. I had a shower which helped a bit, and I ate some food which helped bit more. What I really needed to cure my post Friday night flu was some fresh air, a run was out of the question, I think a run might have finished me off, so I persuaded my other half that we should go out for a walk.
The original plan was to get the bus down Blackhorse Road, go to Wood Street Coffee at Blackhorse Workshop, get caffeine, and then walk home. That plan didn’t work out because the dog decided to sniff every tree we walked past and we missed the bus. As we were out anyway I suggested that we walked up to the sweet shop on Higham Hill Road. Saturday felt like a day that sugar might just make better, and as I had never been to the sweet shop before, this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. I found the shops facebook page the previous weekend which is what had planted the idea of a visit in to my head. I wasn’t sure what to expect though, I knew what the front of the shop looked like from all the times we haven driven past. But for all I knew, the inside of the shop could well have just been a bog standard newsagent. I started to worry slightly as we got closer to the shop, I would be in much trouble if I’d dragged my other half and dog half way across Walthamstow, in the cold, to a pretty standard shop.
The front of the shop indicates that there is something slightly different about it. The dark brown painted wood and gold lettering hinting that there might be something old fashioned about Arthur Longs. The window displays confirmed that this wasn’t a waisted trip. The window on Gloucester Road is full of old posters advertising chocolates and sweets from days gone by, it is also home to old weighing scales and an old cash register. As we had the dog we both couldn’t go inside, so we pushed our faces against the glass and decided which sweets I should buy when I went in. With a list of requirements and cash in my pocket I walked in through the front door, trying hard to resists the urge to sing I’ve got a golden ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate factory.
As the door closed behind me I stopped dead and juts stood staring at the rows of jars filled with all kinds of sugary goodness. This is a sweet shop as you would imagine a sweet shop to be. Glass display cabinets form the shop counter and one wall is home to the jars. Unfortunately the owner doesn’t allow photography inside the shop, but take it from me the wall of jars is a feast for the eyes. Lemon sherbets, sweet peanuts and cinder toffee fill the jars and tempt shoppers. I was just like a kid in a sweet shop, staring at the jars, eyes flitting from label to label. I wasn’t the only one that seemed a little overwhelmed, a small boy was stood in front of the shop counter, proudly holding a pound coin aloft. His mum asked him he wanted, he pointed in the general direction of the sweet jars and said “sweets”. The shop keeper stepped in and pointed out all of the things the boy could afford, he eventually made his choice and then it was my turn. I ordered cinder toffee and rosy apples, watching as the shop keeper weighed them in proper scales and dropped them in to crisp white paper bags.
The prices of the sweets seem almost as old fashioned as the shop, but then I haven’t bought sweets from jars since I was at school so I’ve no idea how much they should be. It does seem amazing that in this day and age, this little shop can survive on the profits made from selling bags of sweets. In actual fact it seems to be doing more than just surviving, there were herds of kids (and adults) coming in and out if the shop whilst I was in there. All of the customers with eyes as wide as saucers as they surveyed the goods on offer. Arthur Longs is like a little piece of the past that has survived the onslaught of the modern world. It sells the same sweets that many other shops do, but the experience is different. Getting a quarter of sweets in a paper bag is different to getting a pre packed plastic bag from a supermarket. I enjoyed visiting the shop as much as I enjoyed eating the sweets. Arthur Long can be found at 313 Higham Hill road, or for those with a slightly more modern outlook on the world, they are also on facebook.