home - colophon - about ngn -

Was it driving through the New Forest and seeing the ponies? or somewhere else where there were foals in the fields? Either way, my grandfather would call out, bafflingly, "Look at the zubes!"

Months, or even years later, I got as far as linking his turn of phrase to an advertising slogan: "Feeling a little hoarse? go suck a Zube." No worse than many another slogan, but not enough to persuade me: there was something particularly unpleasant about the taste of those small, hard throat-sweets. To be fair, I've yet to find any that aren't at least vaguely unpleasant even if Zubes are still in a class of their own.

Pop died when I was 16, and it had already been years since I'd seen Zubes in the shops. No-one in the family kept the phrase in use, and I'd almost forgotten it until 2010 when Chris bought himself a bottle of cough-linctus in Sheffield. "Good stuff!" he said after his first spoonful, and passed me the bottle to sniff. Oh, vileness – whatever goes into Covonia cough-linctus, it smells exactly like Zubes: and revives memories as smartly as it clears the tubes.

Pop's medication repertory also included that lamentably unavailable favourite, Dr J. Collis Browne's Chlorodyne Compound. This would be brought out and carefully administered, a few drops in a glass of water, and always had the sufferer sitting up and taking notice within a little while. It was a very long time afterwards that I discovered its formula: according to one pharmacopæia, "Contains: Morphine hydrochloride, fluid extract of cannabis, chloroform, oil of peppermint, tincture of capsicum and diluted hydrocyanic acid." Must have been the peppermint that did the trick, eh!