I haven’t been so shocked since I saw Theresa May’s outfit for the landmark Florence speech.
Oh I know what you’re going to say, it’s not about her clothes, a male prime minister wouldn’t be judged on his appearance.
You’re right, of course you’re right. But why, in the name of all that’s holy, did she try to make peace with Europe while wearing half-mast flared trousers?
Maybe it was a diversionary tactic, who knows? But anyway, I did think that was the pinnacle of my shock for this year - until I heard the news about chocolate.
Sales are plummeting. We’ve gone right off the stuff. A nation that chomped chocolate down by the yard; that clutched the confectionery to the national bosom as if it was a precious child; that drooled as television chef Nigella used it in every dish she made has now heard the message about the evils of sugar, and acted.
It’s a barnstormer of a blow. Chocolate is part of our history. I can’t say it exactly won us the war but it made my mum very happy when her sailor dad, missing for two years, suddenly reappeared with a sackful of unclaimed chocolate rations. I don’t know what she thought about seeing her father, but she speaks very fondly of that chocolate.
And I’m feeling really quite guilty because I haven’t bought any myself for a while and I used to be an enthusiastic consumer.
So it might not be anything to do with the rest of you. I might have brought the industry to its knees all by myself. Because I have, hand on heart, had a long, intense love affair with chocolate. It’s only very lately my passion has waned.
I’d say my entire life could be measured in chocolate bars, its different phases marked by a different buying habit.
There were the years of the 6d Cadbury bar, yes that’s right, we’re way back in the days of old money. I can get all misty-eyed thinking of it now: my seven-year-old self making a detour into the sweet shop on the way home from school - those were the days when parents didn’t collect you, so a sweet shop detour was perfectly safe - then scoffing the lot instantly.
Then there was the weekly Thursday night treat of chocolate brazil nuts and Bewitched. The posh sweets were for my dad but I usually managed to snaffle a couple while watching my favourite television show.
Soon came my teenage passions, not boys but bars of chocolate. For a while it was Dime bars: the snap of the almond brittle, the melting sweetness of the chocolate coating. For a whole summer it was Topics, because I had a summer job packing them into Christmas stockings. A bunch of Topics for lunch is a wondrous thing, but it does make you put on half a stone in six weeks, just so you know.
Later I entered the Mars bar phase because a Mars bar can soothe a person at the most stressful of times, like when a new baby needs to be cared for, or when a job interview has been endured. For most job interviews I carried a precautionary Mars bar in my bag.
There have been many other flirtations: the After Eight period when I discovered the joys of ending a tough working week with chocolate mints and Gardeners’ World.
Or the Revels phase, more of an addiction really, when one handful was never enough because there might always be another orange one in the next handful.
I lost the best part of a decade to Galaxy - because there really is nothing better than a magazine and a bar of Galaxy for utter relaxation. Meditation has nothing on this combo.
You will have your own chocolate stories I know. But for me it’s been a while now. My youthful ardour has cooled. Sad to say, I look at a chocolate bar now and I see calories and sugar and fat. I know that one will never be enough, so I walk on by - mostly.
But now I know I’ve sunk a whole industry, with a little help from you lot, I might have to rethink my strategy. Sometimes, duty comes first.