Wednesday, January 31, 2007


There’s a scary rumour around that the “Lion Bar” is no more.

Without in any way admitting to being hooked on the stuff, I can seriously understand why the “Bar of Chocolate” is probably quite high up on the List of “A” Class Addictive Substances List, if Our Leaders, in their unceasing quest to measure and control Our Lives Totally, ever thought about creating such a thing. And the position of the Lion Bar in this List would be somewhere at the very top, espescially the King Size Version. I have only eaten one of those Monsters once, and I was not mentally strong enough at the time to dare to read the contents label, as I suspect I would have collapsed at the Levels of Calories, Fat, etc etc etc I had just consumed.

But, in reality, that’s the whole point about them, isn’t it? It’s called Comfort Food for goodness sake, and that’s precisely what it is. When it’s what you want, the idea of nibbling a Raw Brussel Sprout, or a Mung Bean and Tofu Surprise isn’t even on the board. And, in this author’s very humble opinion, The Lion Bar is King – or is it more of a case of “The King is Dead, Long live the Raspberry, Granola and Oat Krunchie?”

Checking on Nestle’s web site leads us nowhere. There’s a very carefully, mealy mouthily worded comment about the Lion Bar on their List of Products. Each of their many products has a “Come on, Eat Me” picture alongside the description, but the Lion Bar’s section sits there pictureless, and the caption simply and forlornly reads –

Lion bars were launched in 1976 and are aimed primarily at young men aged 16-24.

Which in itself is a bit of a bummer – I’m not sure I like to be associated with a target market of “young men aged 16-24” – the way they write it doesn’t sound over complimentary to me. But the main issue is they get you well and truly addicted over what is essentially the whole of your Chocolate eating life, and then – Pouf! Because some Swiss Business Analyst wielding a chocolate spreadsheet decides he doesn’t like the numbers, it doesn’t exist any more.

I can’t help thinking that this sort of thing ought to governed by the same sort of restrictions that prevent great works of Art from going abroad. You can see it today with Turner’s Blue Rigi where, because it’s such an important item, there is a concerted plan to save it for the nation. (Just so you don’t think I’m completely barking, here’s a picture of this intensely beautiful painting.)


There is a mandatory stay of execution on its export while enough support, be it monetary or political, is raised to keep the thing in the UK, and so it should be. But where’s the campaign for the Lion Bar, which probably touches more people than Turner’s masterpiece? There's an argument that if you partake or are involved with something over such a long period of time, you almost begin to own a bit of it, so you should have some sort of say when a major decision about stopping its availability.

And just in case you don’t believe just how many people are so chocaholically fixated, a couple of keystrokes on a computer transports you "Lion (Bar), Witch and Wardrobe"-ly, into a totally parallel universe. Just look at the following link and be amazed - . In it you will find streams of learned discussions on such things as the existence of 22 different flavours of Kit Kat, including swelpme, Christmas Pudding and Green Tea (not in the same bar I hasten to add) flavours. There’s even a taste test on some of them which probably explains why they're not on sale in the UK –

There's a faint smell of sick you get from white chocolate sometimes. The Lemon Cheesecake KK flavour's sickwhiff was quite pronounced, but they were still edible if not brilliant.

The Green Tea variety absolutely reek of it, with a worrying and inexplicable subpong of melting plastic too. It certainly doesn't smell anything like any green tea I've ever drunk... can't comment on the flavour as I never made it that far. (Yeah, I'm a wimp.)

Still, the Japanese people in the room were not put off by the stench, so they didn't go to waste. Though it took a good ten minutes for the objectionable odour to waft away.

Mmmmm. Sounds really scrummy.

But, back to the main subject. If you want the Lion Bar, with its ultimate combination of Chocolate, Biscuits, Rice Krispies, Milk, Toffee – if you eat cereals in the morning, it’s a bit like a Chocolate All Day Breakfast – to be with us, for your children, and your children’s children, you may want to write in the strongest “Outraged of Tunbridge-Wells” tones to Nestle NOW.

Tomorrow may be too late.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


The Letters columns of the Broadsheets (that word needs to change now - any ideas?) are a constant source of personal pleasure. Reading them gives you a shaft of awareness of the intelligence, wit, humour and simple good sense that still exists in this country.
I know it shows one's age terribly to poke fun at the young, as well as the attendant need to suppress constantly the almost Pavlovian "Well, in my day, of course ....." response. I do feel however that it's much easier when you read the letter below, written to "The Times" a while ago, which struck a very resonant chord.
Do I see a GCSE Maths question coming on?

Monday, January 22, 2007


Nameplate on the side of a building seen in Norfolk - interestingly the strapline isn't "... the names you can trust".
I wonder if his Christian Name is Nick?

Friday, January 19, 2007


I suppose it’s because, in the last 1000 years, this country has never been invaded, has never had its citizens “governed” by unelected people from another country, that we don’t realise just how important is the degree of personal freedom we enjoy. Perhaps taking this Oh So Important Freedom for granted, because, as a body of people, we have never been subjected to an overpowering totalitarianism, that we seem to be prepared to submit to the current insidious and gradual erosion of personal privacy which is going on around us at a gathering and seemingly unstoppable pace.

You simply wonder who the people are who want all this information, and what precisely their Grand Plan is, because it’s totally unclear to me. Just take a look at the following list –

1994: Government paves the way for major expansion of CCTV - there is now 1 CCTV installation for every 14 people in this country (more than anywhere else in the World!), and these machines are now sprouting ears to listen to what we are saying, and pattern recognition to see how many people are around, and what they are doing.

1995: The world’s first National DNA Database is established in England and Wales.

2004: Number of DNA profiles hits the two million mark. The Prime Minister has suggested that the DNA of every British adult should be stored by the state. The national database now holds 3.7 million samples, 6 per cent of the population, far higher than any other country. More than one million have been taken from people never convicted of an offence.

2004: Information Commissonaire Richard Thomas warns that Britain is ’sleepwalking into a surveillance society’

2005: MPs vote to introduce identity cards

2006: Identity Cards Act becomes law

2007: Data-sharing by Whitehall departments likely to be introduced

2008: Foreign nationals will have to start supplying fingerprints, eye or facial scans added to a National Identity register

2008: Children’s database, covering all under-16s in England and Wales, will be launched

2009: The first biometric identity cards will be issued to British citizens when they renew their passport

2010: NHS Database will store the records of 50 million patients providing details over the internet, and we all know how secure that is, don’t we? Millions of medical records are to be transferred to a central NHS database, allowing staff anywhere to access patients’ information. People who object will not be able to opt out. The most personal information will be available to hospital managers, IT departments, high street pharmacists and civil servants.

2010?: The Department of Transport is examining plans to use satellite technology to keep tabs on every vehicle’s exact movements. Estimated introduction date is around 2010, and Motorists will be forced to have a black box fitted in their cars, and will be billed for every journey they make. So if you fancy an illicit affair from 2010 onwards, make sure you go by public transport, and pay by cash! Actually, I have a view that some form of Road pricing is required – I just think it should be administered by an independent organisation, without the potentially sinister Government implications which the current plans imply.

2012?: ID cards compulsory - A whole new bag of worms!

In all of this, the government smoothly attempts to mollify us by claims that they all address Terrorism, Crime, Illegal Immigrants, Identity Theft and improved “efficiency” – it’s always terrorism, by the way, isn’t it?

They claim to be going for “Joined Up” government, but we now seem to have a set of leaders who are prepared to stand by and watch the exponentially increasing fiasco of MRSA, killing hundreds, probably thousands of people each year in hospitals, which my simple mind used to imagine were places where you got better from illnesses. And the same Government, at the same time, is stealthily and very quietly, totally, permanently and adversely changing every individual in this Country’s relationship with the State, to prevent a level of “Terrorist” destruction one or two orders of magnitude less than that. My simple mind is obviously missing a great chunk of the Westminster strategic Jig-saw here.

The situation is further exacerbated by the Public Sector’s seemingly total inability to get any of these things to work. We hear about the unbreakable level of security which will be permanently inbuilt into all these systems, and how foolproof they will be, meaning that, in their eyes, our concerns about unlawful usage of personal information are totally unnecessary and quite misplaced.

Is it just me or can anyone else recall ever seeing anything about failures in the Sex Offenders' Register, the CSA, the Criminal Records Bureau, the recent problems tracking criminal records from overseas, and the utter ineptitude the Government continues to show in its dealings with illegal immigrants.

A colleague of mine, well versed in matters Computeral, will say that the weakest link in any system is the guy who has his finger on the keyboard, and even for just the National Medical System, that number must run into many tens of thousands. Just look at the list above and see who will have access to your personal medical records - Hospital managers, IT departments, high street pharmacists and civil servants. It’s interesting to note that “The Times” reports that the National Medical database will not include information on “celebrities” and “politicians”. Now I wonder why that would be – we’d know for sure the truth about Blair’s MMR injections, and that would never do, would it? Or actually, we wouldn’t because the information would never get out.

And there was me thinking that when I went to see my Doctor, I was having a private and confidential chat with him about my innermost secrets!

The strange thing about all this, and it’s an issue which has worried me in this Blog before, is that the younger members of our society don’t seem to share these concerns. I suspect they have been brought up in an environment where it’s becoming the norm anyway, so What’s there to worry about?

It’s only when it starts to affect them personally that it starts to strike home that maybe, just maybe, this is important. Like when the CSA sends a series of demands and threats for randomly different amounts of money, none of them supported by any rational analysis, and you can’t get any information about it, or even speak to someone to discuss it. Or when the Health Visitor, ostensibly coming to your house to help with your child’s progress, asks to look around the house, and you realise they want to see any evidence of your child being maltreated. You then realise that there is a degree of official suspicion about you.

Maybe it’s a bit late then.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


This was taken recently in Newport, South Wales – actually, I can't think of anything to say!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I can’t help feeling that a few more minutes quiet reflection by the Author on the order of the words used on this notice would have eliminated the intrusive Marie Antoinette image which currently I can’t get out of my mind.

The notice is, after all, at the entrance of the local Hospital’s Major Emergencies unit.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


We visit Norfolk quite a lot – its beautiful, understated countryside, its gentle non pushy people, its excellent seafood and its glorious, varied and usually almost deserted beaches and coastline make it very easy to “chill out” there.

I’ve started to put together my own photographic view of the area, and this set of six images is the first of a few sets I’ve taken so far of the area around Burnham Overy Staithe, Blakeney, Brancaster and the coast towards Cromer.

I've called the set of pictures - "Big Skies and Small Boats".









One of the truly exhilarating intellectual challenges with which you wrestle during your roller-coaster life as an Accountant is the idea of Retention of Title – the concept where something you have bought remains the property of the Seller until you, the purchaser, have actually paid for it. You’d think it was dead simple as an idea, but no, Accountants and Lawyers being what they are, the maintainance and clarification of the Rules on all this keep some very highly paid people in employment permanently – not, I hasten to add, individuals with whom you’d want to spend too long in a pub. Anyway, we’ve all seen the comments written on the bottom of invoices which companies send to us when we buy something new.

The first invoice I received through the post after New Year contained one of these clauses. In the circumstances however, being still full of bonhomie and good naturedness, I contacted them to advise that, even in the (unlikely, I hope) event that my Bank did not honour my cheque, I was more than happy for them to retain the goods involved in the transaction whatever happened. I actually foresaw no circumstances where I would conceivably want the goods to be returned to me.

Generosity knows no bounds at this time of year!

Upon reflection, this magnanimity may also have been slightly coloured by the fact that the “goods” referred to in their invoice (Exhibit A below) were the contents of our Septic Tank which, before Christmas, they had just emptied and removed.

Enjoy your breakfast!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007



Occasionally, something comes along on TV which captures your imagination, something different from everything you’ve seen before. In 1996, I stumbled across (well, it was broadcast at something like 11 o clock on a Tuesday night on BBC2, so stumbled was about the right word) a series showing the goings on, in a London house, of five would be graduate lawyers, including all the Sex, drugs and Rock'n'Roll you could want. The camerawork was jerky, almost amateurish, the dialogue was sharp, real and immediately attention grabbing, and the characters, who had soft and dark sides as well as their brash outer shell, were very perceptively and quite brilliantly drawn. Not a great deal happened that perhaps you wouldn’t expect to happen to a bunch of pushy, aggressive, sharp young things, but the whole thing moved along with a real “buzz”, and you were immediately drawn into them and their lives – what they were, what they wanted, how they interacted, and simply how their lives panned out. As a bridge between wanting to be the hard partying twenties and being dragging reluctantly into unwanted adulthood, it was hugely addictive, lasted for 32 episodes, and was called “This Life”.

I am not an avid TV viewer, but it sits comfortably in the best three or four drama Series I have ever seen on TV.

Amy Jenkins (bizarrely, the daughter of the Labour Chancellor Roy Jenkins - what, besides Claret drinking, must have gone on in their house?) has claimed most of the plaudits for its success, although I seem to remember at the time that the really cracking episodes were written by others, particularly Richard Zajdlic. It was one of those series where you really believed in the characters – there seemed to be nothing forced about them or the way they dealt with each other, even though they were huge differences between them, both in their backgrounds or their attitudes. Even the secondary characters, Ferdy, Kenny, Kiera, Jo, Graham, the loathsome Rachel, and the equally slimy and appalling O’Donnell were jewels in the way they added colour and excitement to the storylines. And after a whirlwind two seasons, the whole thing came to a sharp halt, with the most stupendous last two seconds I’ve ever seen in a drama.

If ever you wanted a demonstration of the difference between the questions “Why did you stop?” and “Why don’t you stop?”, This Life got it absolutely right. It finished on an absolute high, and left you screaming for more. The finale gave you no idea what happened to Miles, Warren, Egg, Milly and the stupendously long legged, chain smoking, Soave drinking, beguilingly exciting Anna, and you were deliberately left to work out for yourself what directions all their lives took.

Just before Christmas, it was announced that Tony Garnett and Amy Jenkins had managed to get the main cast together again for a one off “10 years on” programme, and I have to admit to a huge rush of anticipation which stretched all through Christmas, on reading this. As a run up to the show, the whole of the original two series were shown again, and any thoughts that it might have aged over the last 10 years were immediately squashed. It was still fresh and vibrant and come last night, when it was broadcast, I sat down with a great feeling of excitement to watch 90 minutes of what was clearly going to be pure joy.

I cannot remember such a letdown in a television programme. The characters had all lost at least one of their dimensions. The storylines were contrived, inappropriate, illogical, facile, and simply unbelievable. The plotlines contained glaring errors and were hopelessly condensed, with the cadences and flow which made the original two series being completely lost. All in all, it was a self indulgent and ill thought out programme, which left you feeling the author was taking the easy option at every turn.

It was simply a programme which should never have been made. So, if you haven’t yet seen the original 1996 programmes, watch them – they are terrific and a real treat. In Warren-speak - "Outstanding!"

But don’t go anywhere near the “10 years on” update – it’s an absolute stinker.