Keeping Hot Things Hot and Cold Things Cold


When I first moved up to Thetford in Norfolk in the early 1970’s it was a veritable hub of industry.

Up until the 1960’s that hadn’t been the case as the career choice for young Thetfordians was simply beween the “Canning Factory”, the “Pulp Mill” or local agricultural or forestry work (Burrell’s Steam Engine Factory had long closed). In the 1960’s that all changed when the town was declared an “overspill” town by the Greater London Council and large new Industrial Plants with associated housing developments were built to encourage economic activity from London’s main conurbation to the fresh fields of East Anglia.  The population grew from around 7,000 to 17,000 in a very short space of time and for a while the town became the fastest growing in England. Notable businesses included Danepack (Tulip International) which ran one of the largest bacon production factories in the UK, Airscrew-Weyroc (chipboard production), Travenol Laboratories and THERMOS the eponymous flask people.

Other activities followed and the retail centre of Thetford grew. It had one small supermarket in the middle of the main street which used to do rather well.   The crew of Dad’s Army used to use the Bell Hotel when they were doing their filming.

If I had been making a film about this part of Thetford’s history my soundbed of choice would be “Telegraph Road” by Dire Straits about a sleepy rural town transformed by the arrival of the Railroad.

“Then came the churches, then came the schools
Then came the lawyers, then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their load
And the dirty old track was the A11”

Returning to the town today to visit Lidl amongst the great expanse of hypermarkets on the periphery I was struck by how much it had changed.  The major activities of “making things” had given way to “retailing things” and all this was occurring around the car-park rich edges whilst the centre clings on to its few speciality and charity shops like grim death.  Since things like insurance policies and bank loans became “products” and sales meetings became “workshops” there seemed to be a wistful longing for the days when we could actually make our own stuff.

This feeling of change became more poignant when we moved on to the massive Tesco Superstore and I discovered this evidence of Thetford’s historic past on one of the shelves. Check the address.


I suppose I shouldn’t become overly sentimental about the loss of Industry – after all, it wasn’t all sweetness and came with an overhead of pollution, disease and downtrodden workers. And taking the longer view, I remembered reading how Thetford had been the 4th largest town in England at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 and went on to become the ecclesiastical centre of East Anglia.  However the Dissolution in the 16th Century led to a rapid decline in the town’s fortunes and it was one of the very last towns in England to develop a mains drainage system.

At least it’s now got its conveniences.

*The title of this post relates to the old observation about Thermos Flasks. They keep hot things hot and cold things cold – but how do they know which one to do?*


Back to Mono

I’ve read a few suggestions recently that the 21st Century epidemic of phone-addiction can be mitigated by the simple expediency of switching off the screen’s high resolution bright colours and reverting to monochrome.

I have to hold my hand up as someone who spends (wastes) far too much of life staring and jabbing at a shiny 3″ x 2″ iPhone screen . It’s said that it is akin to slot machine addiction, constantly looking for a return in the form of likes and comments instead of coins tumbling into a metal tray. The theory, first put forward by “tech ethicist” Tristan Harris proposes that removing some of the bright shiny stimulation will make us less susceptible to its seductive ways.

I tried the monochrome thing this week and can report that whilst it does make a lot of interaction less, er, colourful and less interesting, it is far too easy for me to use the shortcut back to a colour screen. I would really need to find an irreversible colour swap to fully test this strategy.

However I feel sure my “Wonderful Life Theory” will apply. This proposes that content will always trump the medium and I developed it watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and deciding very quickly that this film is in my top 5 favourites of all time. The fact that it is black and white is noticeable for maybe the first 2 minutes but after that one is so completely immersed in the terrific story and acting it doesn’t matter a fig about colour.

The other “Wonderful Life” film was in full technicolour and starred Cliff Richard but that is not in the same quality league. Neither is Sir Cliff’s “Summer Holiday” which actually morphed from monochrome to colour in its first five minute sequence.

My case rests. Perhaps I need to download a copy of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on my phone? Or possibly just get out more?

Fat Chance


I started a low-carb Mediterranean diet last June when I weighed in at 82.5kg and reached my target of 69kg by mid-November. This wasn’t my initial target (that was 80kg) or monthly revised targets prompted by the elation of seeing the kilos of fat melt away, but a final target that I felt was a reasonable weight to maintain before I descended into “wizened”.

Then I discovered that the losing phase of the low-carb “blood sugar” diet was the easy part – it’s the period when you are most motivated and seeing the greatest immediate results so reinforcement is strongest. The Status Quo is not such an exciting headliner ( although they did a great opening set at Live Aid).

There is a conventional wisdom that most dieters fail in the long term and inside every skinny new convert is the original fat person trying to get out. The figure which had stuck in my mind is that “95% of dieters put all or most of their weight loss back on”, a claim which has appeared for years in newspaper articles and television programmes. I tried to find the data to support this figure and it appears that the 95% claim first appeared in a clinical study in the USA in 1959 and focused on just 100 people. Since then it has been regurgitated endlessly and become a dark and foreboding dampener to the spirits of any new dieter.

Well, it turns out that the technical term for this figure is “bollocks”. ”That 95 percent figure has become clinical lore,” said Dr. Thomas Wadden, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. There is no basis for it, he said, ”but it’s part of the mythology of obesity.”

Well good news. And it’s not difficult to imagine that a lot of “fad” diets are not very successful in the long term because they don’t have a maintenance phase – if you have survived 6 weeks on pills and cabbage water the first place you’re going to be heading on the day the programme finishes is a Greggs or KFC where food often turns up in buckets.

The excellent thing about the Blood Sugar Diet is that it isn’t a just a temporary fix, it is a way of life, a style of eating which becomes permanent and satisfying. The difference between the weight-loss phase and maintenance phase is surprisingly blurred and nothing like the “falling off a cliff” feeling that fad-diet-to-binge-diet must give.

I’ve maintained my new weight for 2 months now and whilst it isn’t a piece of cake (no, it certainly isn’t a piece of cake!) I feel my Mr Kipling days are over .



Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned at an alarming and escalating epidemic in this Country which has been described by some as a “time bomb”.

The “naïveté epidemic” has swept through all generations but the under-forties appear particularly susceptible. Symptoms include believing that the EU have our best interests at heart and thinking that a pair of Marxist jobsworths will fix our NHS. It apparently relates to not being able to remember the 1970’s.

“It’s spreading throughout the West”, declared one Professor who pointed to the recent appointment of a narcissistic 70 year old child as POTUS. “Victims think they can solve all problems by typing on Twitter and Facebook – that’s just how far this naïveté has taken hold”.

Tipping the Scales

I think this year has seen the passing of Peak Marketing Email.

I used to quite enjoy the occasional informative email from Companies I’d purchased from in the past but this year a trickle of messages has turned into a veritable blitzkrieg of digital dross. Every Company from Argos to Zoopla has felt duty bound to mark every invented celebration from Halloween to Black Friday with a barrage of inane “eggseptional” or “spooktacular” email offers. The sheer naffness looks like an office intern has dreamed them up after a strong coffee but I suspect that the sad truth is that hugely overpaid agencies and “digital media Directors” have been involved.

I think the tipping point for me came when I received an email from Salter (from whom we bought £10 kitchen scales this year) announcing a “12 days of Christmas promotion” in which an email would offer special discounts on kitchen scales EVERY DAY FOR 12 DAYS!. Already pummelled to a frazzle by Black Friday deals I decided to call a halt. No weigh José!

Right, Amazon, Argos, Specsavers, Tog24, Halfords and the rest of you – you’ve spoilt it for yourselves and I’m unsubscribing from each and every one of you. If your “unsubscribe” button doesn’t work you will be directed straight into my spam folder. You’d been given a unique opportunity to address this customer individually in a creative and intelligent manner but like an alcoholic you just couldn’t resist over-doing it and now you can get lost.

If anyone reading this knows my email feel free to send me a message – my inbox is already starting to look as empty as Noël Edmonds’ diary.

Services to the Nation

Yesterday we visited what is possibly one of the least socially segregated places in the UK. Every economic and social strata arrive and rub shoulders (I can only speak for the gents) at Cambridge Services on the A14.

Lorry drivers from Slovenia , coach parties from Swansea, Audi drivers from Sevenoaks – all ages shapes and sizes coming together because “needing a wee” becomes, like death, a great societal leveller.

And what an odd place it is. The first person you meet as you enter the refurbished sliding glass door is Phone Case Man. He sits all day with 1000 brightly lit phone cases looking downcast. You never see him make a sale or even deal with a passing phone-case enquiry as grim faces march sternly past him intent on other business.I wonder if he is possibly a front for some sort of money laundering or secret Government 21st Century Mass Observation project. He could be an ironic art installation that we will all enjoy on BBC4 when the documentary comes out.

The toilets are located at the far side of the circular building in a cunning move to ensure your “footfall” takes in at least 50% of the franchisees. Most, like me, take in 100% as we follow the circular round trip in a primeval need “not to miss anything”. And as it’s Northern Hemisphere, always clockwise.

I normally stop at the Costa stall for a medium cappuccino but have to see nobody in the queue otherwise I walk on. Such is the degree of faffing about to produce a coffee and then get a contactless card to work (no cash changes hands at Costa) you can stand there for 15 frustrating minutes if you are second in the queue.

Other food counters include McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and many new endeavours dishing out Nachos (whatever they are) , Enchiladas and Waffles. A massive slab of insulin spiking carbohydrate and a large cup of diuretic to go – and keep going.

Shops in the circle of clockwise perambulation include WHSmith where the Daily Mail and Giant Twix mingle happily with the Guardian and Granola Bar. The M&S shop sells lovely packaged food items at approximately 25 times the cost of what you could make it for at home but we all seem satisfied as it has the “branding”.

As we leave to find our car (one of us has to stand outside with our dogs obvs) we look back at this giant shiny building surrounded by the diggers and dozers of the A14 improvement building site and think – one day soon, the whole of the Country will look like this.

The Ascent of Man II

In 1487 Leonardo Da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance Polymath, conceived the idea for the helicopter which would not be built until the 1940’s. He invented the parachute, armoured car, barrel organ and giant crossbow in between knocking out the odd painting. He was a true genius.


In 1775, James Watt developed the first reliable steam engine which was to go on to provide the motive power for the Industrial Revolution, turning us from an agrarian society into a complex Industrial one. His machines would assist the development of the brilliant and original creations of civil and mechanical engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel whose Great Western Railway route from London to Bristol opened in 1841 and pioneering River Thames Tunnel in 1843 . Both Watt and Brunel were true geniuses, or possibly genii.



Today, as flight 2017 puts its flaps down and begins its bumpy descent towards the main runway of Xmas Airport , we are significantly into the 21st Century and I wondered where all the true genius is now.

Ah but wait! At lunchtime today a pimply, head-shaved lad called Zac in a blue T-shirt blew some fluff out of the charging socket of my iPhone 6 and enabled it to lap up life enhancing battery power once again. He is an “Apple Genius”.