Before my taste became dulled by the sheer activity of growing old, my taste was sharper than my mind. On one of my first day of Infants school, in Susan Lawrence School in Poplar, I left home with a penny in my pocket, my pocket money. Opposite the school was a small corner shop in a terraced house. What seemed to me to be a very old lady had opened her sweet shop opposite the school gates. I went in with my penny and bought what I had never been allowed to buy before – a stick of bright pink bubble gum, wrapped in greased paper, dusted with sugar. It was long and thin with squared edges.
I stuffed the gum into my mouth, and I have never since tasted better gum. The flavour overwhelmed me. I chewed for minutes until a school mate warned me that chewing gum was not allowed in class. I did not know that. Before class, and while the flavour still buzzed in my mouth, I took the gum out of my mouth and threw it into a sparkling white urinal, where its taste would never be known to anyone ever again. And whenever I had pocket money whatever I bought, I could never recreate that taste, that special taste, of my first piece of bubble gum.