I've unlocked a new childhood fear: my nephew has added Fry's Turkish Delight to his list - Gaby Soutar

We were out for a family dinner, when the conversation turned to retro chocolate bars. I asked my mum if she remembered the Fry’s Turkish Delight advert. She said no, so I played the short film on my phone. It’s the cinematic Eighties one, with the dunes, the scimitar and the woman with a single tear running down her face. I think she’s crying because she’s hangry. We’ve all been there.

Anyway, I didn't realise that watching this benign ad would traumatise my four-year-old nephew.

“What was THE WHITE THING?” he kept asking.

I replayed it, while he refused to look. There’s a slithering snake, I suggested, or the sand. It wasn't those.

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A few days later, I missed a phone call. It was before his bedtime and he wanted to ask me, again, what the white thing was. Thank goodness I didn’t show him the old Milk Tray advert, or he might have developed a lifelong phobia of black polo-necks and bang goes his future career as a magician or Steve Jobs.

It’s only anecdotal, but I blame his nervous disposition on the fact that his babyhood took place during lockdown. Our small people weren’t exposed to a lot over those years, so there are probably a lot of jumpy infants out there.

For a while, after restrictions had been lifted, he was frightened of me. His own auntie. I tried not to take it personally, though I do have witchy vibes.

In contrast, my nieces were fearless at that age. Their favourite game was for me or their uncle to be ‘monsters’ and chase them. We’d hide behind the shed in the garden, and I’d take advantage of my natural dowager’s stoop and Les Dawson gurn, as I’d scuttle out from the shadows. The trees would rattle with their screams of joyful terror.

I could channel the full Babadook, because nothing was too frightening for them.

In fact, the scarier, the better. We played it almost every time they came over, until they started attacking us and the game lost its allure, mainly for us. Our shins couldn’t handle the bruises.

If muscle memory prompts me to start that game with the nephew, he just says ‘no’.

Last time we were at the park, where they had one of those rope climbing webs, I tried to initiate a game of spiders. He could be the fly. Absolutely not. At least he was impressed by my attempt to go down the slide face down.

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At the weekend, we attempted Buckaroo, but he wasn’t too keen on the sudden jerking movement of the horse. I took the plastic pots and pans off, and removed the stetson from its saddle, and put it back in the cupboard/stable.

He has also recently added The Grinch to his horrors list. On a Christmas shopping evening at my sister’s local garden centre, there was a man who had been employed to dress up as the Dr Seuss character. I wasn’t there to witness it, but, apparently, my nephew had a meltdown at every sighting of the method actor, who was lurking by the poinsettias and creeping around the Yule logs.

I checked out his photo on Facebook later. Indeed, it was a horrible costume. He resembled an angry stick of mouldy tenderstem broccoli.

I suppose Christmas-time is packed with scary stuff.

There is always that gallery that does the rounds on social media, of children in every era, sobbing their eyes out while sitting on Santa’s lap.

Anyway, my nephew isn’t scared of him yet, which is progress of sorts

His current list, as dictated to my sister and in no particular order, is; “Sharks, seals, venomous snakes, going in the bath, clowns, werewolves, vampires, mummies, witches, skeletons, zombies, Frankensteins, blood, being alone in his room, bulls, strangers, kidnappers, getting killed, and his big sister”.

Most of these are very reasonable. I’ve never liked Frankensteins.

The seal fear is a bit odd, but they’re connected with the bath thing, as he worries that they might come up the plug hole. Fair enough, pinnipeds are cunning. I once found a walrus in the sink and had to flush him down the toilet.

Don’t ask me how bulls got on the list.

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I remember having some equally weird ones, when I was around his age.

I didn’t have as many, but maybe that’s because we weren’t exposed to so much, as far as telly and phones go.

There was a fear of the dark and Daleks, of course, but I remember being freaked out by my bath sponge for a while, dead goldfish and tadpoles (my sister has those same fears) and hearing my own pulse when I was lying in bed. I had a recurrent nightmare involving penguins.

Then were the statues that were outside a neighbour’s house. They were sort of like Giacometti sculptures, and made my skin crawl, so I had to run past every time.

Once, when we were staying with my granny, who didn’t then have facilities in her Glasgow tenement, my mum took us to the public baths. She filled up one of their huge stainless steel tubs and my sister and I screamed our heads off. We were in our early twenties, and it was our first ever bath. I joke. Still, loud noises are a common trigger.

However, the Fry’s Turkish Delight one is a newbie.

So much for being “full of Eastern promise”.

At least I have discovered why the woman in the ad was crying. She must’ve seen The White Thing.



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