The current UK heatwave (is it officially a heatwave yet? Or is it still just annoyingly hot but not quite a heatwave?) has had me reminiscing about beach holidays and ice creams more than I care to admit.
I’ve been stuck inside fantasising about my favourite bowls of spaghetti, the smell of Hawaiian Tropic and the relief of finally getting to your towel as you run barefoot across the criminally hot sand. I’ve been thinking about lilos (remember the year the pillow had a “window” to see the sea? That was a good year), paper umbrellas perched behind ears and waiters with gold necklaces. I’ve found myself constantly distracted, eschewing work in favour of fondly recalling the little cup of orange juice on the plane with the foil lid and the man using old plates and spray cans to paint fantastical moonscapes on the pavement. And yes, I’ve been thinking about ice cream. All of the ice creams.
Me, aged 3, looking about as happy as I’ve ever looked thanks to Mallorcan sunshine and a Batman lolly.
There are many European ice creams that I remember fondly. I wonder how many Punky the Penguins made the two hour flight home to live on childhood bedroom shelves in sleepy suburbia? I think my sister still has a Punky. I hope today’s children still order them now that Menorquina sell an Olaf version. Punky would beat Olaf in a fist fight, no question.
I remember lollies shaped like parrots, drippy ones shaped like slices of watermelon and the best of the best: an ice cream cone studded throughout with impossibly tiny M&Ms.
But then there was Fantasmikos. Ahhhhhh, Fantasmikos.
Do you remember them?
I think what I remember most fondly is the fact that I was never truly sure if I actually liked them. You’d get five mini fruity ice lollies in a bag (admittedly, the excitement stemmed from the fact there was five of them) and they were shaped like little ghosts. They had a bizarre coating on them, like a fruity chocolate, which worked for some of the flavours but was just horribly odd on the others. I think I loved them, whilst also being aware I mustn’t trust them.
For the life of me I couldn’t remember what they were called but Googling “fantasma helados” (ghost ice creams) promptly reunited with me with the strange little things. They still sell them, although the modern packaging promotes the fact they’re gluten free. Of course.
There was something very appealing about opening the bag as if they were a pack of crisps, only to be greeted with ice lollies. If you were on holiday with other children you could try to do trades for the dud flavours, but your success would be limited.
I don’t think I ever received a bag where the ghostly shapes were quite so well formed as in the above marketing shot, they usually looked like they’d suffered a serious health episode whilst at the back of the chest freezer: smashed faces, drooped eyes, broken backs.
I’ll look out for them if I get to a beach bar this summer though and I’ll report back on whether they are in fact nice or rancid. It will be hard, with the temptation of Maxibons and fancy foreign Magnum flavours, but I shall persist.
I’d still like them to bring back the lemon and blackcurrant Batman lolly though…