The Stick of Rock

updated 11 July 2018

Blackpool Rock Candy

As a child, my family visited various seaside resorts in Britain. At almost all of them, when it was nearly time to go home, my parents would buy a stick of rock for each child.

The stick was a tube of hard candy, and in letters around the top of the tube would be spelled out the name of the resort. The letters ran the whole length of the tube.

One could suck or nibble the tube. It was sweet, but it also tasted slightly of menthol. If you did not eat the stick of rock, it served as a souvenir of your day out.

Forty years on

Forty years on, I was an experienced immigration solicitor working in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

A few years earlier, I had obtained permission for a client to come to the UK. It was now time to make an application to become permanent. It was so straightforward that I told him to save himself some money. I told him to download the form from the Home Office web site, fill it in himself, and apply.

I heard nothing more, and did not expect to hear more.

Then there was a telephone call.

My client had won a prestigious international award, and his delighted employer was paying for him to go to Chicago to receive the award. I gave him my heartiest congratulations.

I said I was touched that he had thought of me to tell me.

He then explained that his passport was at the Home Office. His leave to be in the UK had run out, but he was still lawful in the UK because his application to be made permanent had been lodged before his leave expired.

However, he needed his passport to travel to the USA.

He had telephoned the Home Office, who said that his application was in the queue and would be dealt with in about three months time. He needed the passport urgently to travel.

They said they could return the passport, but that would withdraw his application. He could go to Chicago, but he could not come back to Britain. From Chicago he would have to fly to his home country, apply there, and when he arrived back in the UK he would be back at square one, as if he were newly arrived.

He went to his Member of Parliament.

The Home Office confirmed to the MP that the advice was correct. The man could not “jump the queue” because that would not be fair to everyone else in the queue.

Now he turned to me. Could I do anything? He wanted me to do more than his Member of Parliament, to pull strings.

I said I would see what I could do.

It was a question of finding the right string. After a few minutes of thought I rang someone in the Home Office and I explained the situation.

“I’ll get back to you.”

The following day my contact telephoned me to say the passport was stamped. and was going out in the post tonight.

I telephoned my client. He was out, but his secretary took the message. I told her to tell him to bring me a stick of rock from Chicago.

Some hours later, he telephoned. He was delighted with my news.

He was very surprised at my request to bring him a stick of rock. He did not share this cultural heritage with me. He was not aware of sticky hard candy with letters running through it.

The only “stick of rock” he could think of was crack cocaine! He was checking whether I really was asking him to fetch crack cocaine back from Chicago?

I explained about Blackpool rock, and we both laughed at the misunderstanding. A while later I received a postcard from Chicago.

“Dear Charles

I have asked the local dealers for Blackpool Rock, but they say they have never heard of it, Sorry!”