On March 5th 1988 a ritual was started that has been upheld, defended and enshrined by the many that know its true worth. This ritual, like so many things of value was started by accident. A meeting of event, location, blind stupidity and will power. Let us go back to momentous evening and take you through the many threads that are brought together in the one great tradion and why, like so many things of value, its very existence is now challenged by the march of technology.
Earlier on that fateful night I decided, on a whim, to take my hard earned wages and throw it all at a four day, running on a shoestring, immersion in the city of lights. I was going take the ferry to France and stay in a flea ridden half star “hotel” that provided commanding views of Paris – on the horizon, if you stand on a chair, on your tippy toes. After catching a bus through a stormy night from Victoria to Priory Docks, Dover, the series of events that led to establishment of one of the staples of my existence came into play.
Firstly and importantly it was a journey to cross the English Channel. A romantic way to leave Blighty, calling to mind Victorian era journey to the continent for the “Grand Tour”. Secondly, on these ferries a unique product is sold, available only on duty free shops in the United Kingdom, the 1 metre long Toblerone. Put the two together you get a unique opportunity. “Can I eat an entire 1 metre long Toblerone before I reach France?” The answer I discovered on that night in 1988 was “Hell Yes!”. In fact the massive 4.5kg chocolate mass was gone with minutes to spare. Was I well – um no, but I had met the challenge and won. From that day on every time I crossed the English Channel one of those chocolate monsters went to God. A mountain I kept climbing for decades.
However, one journey posed a challenge that tested my commitment to “the cause”. Instead of catching that floating home of powder eggs and bacon from tin, I decided to catch the train, through the Chunnel. Rules are rules and the same “must eat a 4.5kg lump of chocolate when crossing the Channel” came into play. Instead of the normal ninety minutes to gorge myself with Switzerland’s finest chocolate and nougat treat, I had a mere thirty, the time that I was actually crossing under the channel. The time travelling from St. Pancras to the Channel and from the Channel to Gare du Nord must be excluded, just to keep things fair.
As soon as the aluminium tube crossed, as far as I could tell, the coast the wrapper was destroyed and quest began. 4.5 kilomgrams of chocolate in 30 mins. The minutes ticked by as bite by bite, triangle by triangle I devoured my albatross. As I streaked under the ocean at 300km/h my fellow passengers wondered not only was I going to eat it all, but why the hell I was doing it all, but I didn’t have time to answer because my English Channel destiny had to be met. Finally the last piece greeted me in the box, with only seconds to spare the last man standing was placed in my mouth, chewed briefly, swallowed as the Eurostar broke into daylight. I, not only my stomach, realised the enormity of what I had achieved.
I had showed the over bearing shadow of progress who was boss, it wasn’t going to mess with my traditions, no matter how sick I felt.