As far as I can tell, there are four different breeds, and one is a breed I’ve never seen before. Their fleece is uniformly brown, but their faces are black with a white line down the middle. And their tails are two-tone: two thirds black with a white tip. I daresay the breed has an official name, but I’ve taken to calling them Liquorice Allsorts.
So then I took to wondering whether Americans would know what liquorice allsorts are, or whether they were invented in America but are marketed under a different name. ‘Liquorice allsorts’ doesn’t sound to me like the sort of name an American would come up with, since there’s no room for ‘candy’ anywhere. ‘Liquorice allsorts’ sounds like a good old British name, the sort of name that would be dreamt up by the 7-year-old daughter of an Edwardian industrialist from Rochdale.
‘What d’ya think we should call these new sweeties, my little one?’ said Mr Basset to his prize angel, one evening in November 1907.
‘Well, they’ve all got liquorice in them.’
‘And they’re all sorts of different shapes and colours.’
‘So I think you should call them “Liquorice Allsorts”’
The angelic one danced in delight and clapped her hands gleefully, while her blonde ringlets swung with gay abandon and Mr Basset was beside himself with adoration.
‘Ee, lass, it’s a genius you are, right enough. Liquorice Allsorts it shall be.’
‘It’ll never catch on, Ronald,’ whispered Mrs Basset with the merest hint of forlorn frowning.
‘I know, my dear, I know,’ said Mr B under his breath, ‘but we can always change it to Rainbow Candies once she’s out of the way in boarding school, can’t we? Should do well in the American market, eh?’
The two of them smiled indulgently and everyone was happy. And liquorice allsorts did not die and leave an unclaimed crutch in the corner by the fireplace, but lived on to survive and surpass the onslaught wrought by chewing gum and Hershey Bars during the dark days of the 1940s. They live on still, and are one of JJ’s favourites.
And now there’s a breed of sheep named after them…
And as little Hortense Penelope Basset was occasionally wont to observe ‘God bless us, every one.’
This is what happens when I spend long periods in the pit. I lose track of when Christmas is, and I turn even stranger than usual.