Last Night's Television: Inside John Lewis, BBC2
Timeshift: Bread - a loaf affair, BBC4

Anyone with a passion for cobnuts needs to keep an eye on the Freeview spin-off channels these days. Cobnuts – for those of you who missed last week's entertaining documentary about Rachel Johnson's attempts to revamp The Lady magazine – was the nickname she gave to the idiosyncratic articles that were a feature of the organ she inherited, which included such urgent topics as the history of the cucumber and the virtues of the cobnut (hence the name). Rachel didn't much care for cobnuts and tried to get rid of them, only to discover that her audience had a strong affection for pieces with no rationale but their own curiosity. Cobnuts aren't generated by someone's publicity agenda or trying to ride a wave in the zeitgeist or piggy-backing on a celebrity pronouncement. They're just there because interest coagulated to create them.

Timeshift: Bread – a Loaf Affair was a classic cobnut, packed with cobnutty-type people, who'd devoted their lives to one passion, and could happily pick the bits out of a wholemeal loaf all day, discussing the provenance of the flour and the exact nature of its milling. It had a vague reason for existence in the shape of BBC4's run of food-themed programmes, but you got the feeling that wasn't a necessary pre-condition for its existence. And, for anyone who likes a good cobnut now and then, it was a treat, even allowing for its passion for terrible puns. If you'd thought that the one in the title was going to be the worst of it, you were wrong. There was a pun in their choice of narrator (Tom Baker) and some absolute horrors in the script he had to read, including a line about "diverting the kids from the path of whiteousness", which actually rendered me unconscious for a couple of seconds.

The justification for that last crime against language was the essential tale that Bread – a Loaf Affair told – the eventful marriage of class-consciousness and bread-styles. In the medieval period, white bread was an exclusive luxury, the great mass of the peasantry making do with loaves that were only just distinguishable from the millstones that ground the wheat that went into them. So bakers did their best to fake a white loaf for the mass market, adultering their flour with chalk dust and alum. The arrival of Canadian and American wheat and the invention of the roller mill enabled them to deliver a product, which didn't actually poison their customers, at which point, naturally, the upper crust decided that it was time to shift back to brown loaves. Hovis – invented by a Mr Smith, aimed itself squarely at the aspiring middle classes, but by now the flour required to make such bread was more expensive than the refined white stuff, so the working class once again got stuck with loaves that weren't quite what they purported to be. And then Mr Allinson came along and started marketing "wholemeal", which complicated matters still further.

There were jolly bits of archive from the Seventies, showing the rise of industrial white bread and the wholefood fightback, there was a positively erotic sequence in which someone baked a ciabatta loaf and there were a string of those savoury little facts that all cobnuts contain – social implication rising up from them like the steam from a freshly baked loaf. Take the fact, for instance, that it was illegal to sell the National Loaf – a one-flavour fits all product of war-time rationing – until it was a day old, a kind of rationing by staleness that helped contribute to the immense popularity of white flannel bread in the Sixties and Seventies. Curiously, this cobnut also concluded on a highly topical note. South African society is now replicating almost exactly the powerful (and nutritionally damaging) association between arctic white bread and social sophistication.

In a hundred years' time somebody will make a cobnut about the great shift to online retailing, though presumably it will take the form of a synaptic download or 2110's equivalent of a streaming Twitter feed. Inside John Lewis concluded with the opening of the Cardiff store (Welsh choir, carnations all round, barely restrained hysteria among local yummy-mummies) and the continuing development of John Lewis's online shop, which has now branched into fashion. It also included a little section on that cheeky advertising campaign, which suggested that people took advantage of John Lewis's expert customer care and advice and then bought the goods they'd selected from Dixons instead. The John Lewis people got a bit flustered and cross when that came out, presumably forgetting that their consternation and anxiety was at that very moment contributing to the kind of advert that no amount of money could buy for Dixons, a three-part series on BBC2 that represented John Lewis as the wholemeal loaf of the retailing world, full of the goodness that some bakers leave out.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?