BUNHILL; And don't it make your brown sauce blue?
Sunday 14 May 1995
Market Harborough being HP Foods' HQ, what's wrong with "brown-sauce socialism" as the alimentary opposite of the other adjectives? Plenty, sniffs HP's Andrew Marsden, who points out that brown sauce might sound sufficiently proletarian, but not HP, holder of the Royal Warrant. HP, Marsden continues, "heralds a move away from the flighty Eighties and its culinary frissons, and back to a balance of timeless values". Sort of "back to basics" I suggest, but Marsden thinks not.
Nor, apparently, does John Major, recently seen in the West Country dining on fish, chips and mushy peas - not perhaps an obvious meal to ask for at a Michelin-starred joint such as the Castle, but apparently what Number Ten had requested. Major, according to reports, did without brown sauce (a £41m industry).* Does the Castle management draw the line at cette mlange des fruits de haute qualit, perhaps?
Not a bit of it, says mine host Kit Chapman, also author of the forthcoming Great British Chefs Vol 2, who tells me that HP is "indispensable" to the business breakfasts he puts on there.
Indeed, the Castle's own head chef, Paul Vickery, sounds as if he is halfway towards making it compulsory.
He says eggs and bacon just don't work for him without the stuff. I'll have to try that one on the food police at our house next time I reach for the bottle.
* Source: 1994 Retail Sauce Report.
THE YOUNG man pictured below is staring into neither the future nor the past but into the present, and it would seem that it works.
The present is that of technical colleges, institutions busily shedding their overalls to become something between a university and a merchant bank.
In particular, Mark Grayson Wood is looking at the present of Leeds Metropolitan University, an institution somewhat junior, if only as a degree-giver, to that city's unmetropolitan university.
The resin skull Grayson Wood sees before him is a high-speed 3D prototype that can be produced from computer data, in this case a CT scan, and is one of the many products that nowadays may be licensed to local entrepreneurs through Leeds Met's Univentures subsidiary. Many universities these days help local people towards self-employment with products, advice or even money.
Self-employment does seem to be a wise option for the human products of some academies these days. This week, I saw the CV of a young woman, not from a former tech, which alleges her to have been accepted for a course at the "Sourbonne" in Paris. When I demur, she produces a genuine, if similarly odd, letter from this body, written by an employee who spells it the "Sorbone."
Write-on ONE OF the few pleasures that age cannot wither is the reading of other people's letters, all too often so much more interesting than one's own. Rarely, however, is such a feast set before Bunhill as that of the letters written by the employees of the John Lewis Partnership.
These employees, or more accurately "partners", as those who work in co-operatively-owned John Lewis department and Waitrose supermarket stores group prefer to be known, are encouraged to blow whistles and otherwise let off steam.
One officially sanctioned way is to fire off a letter, anonymously if the writer chooses, to the partnership's magazine, The Gazette.
Partners rise to the epistolary challenge, and though some happy few dare write their name, a thousand sobriquets have bloomed over the years. The letters column of the current issue is host to, among others, Hard Man to Please, The Optimist, Even More Curious, Ivor Calculator and Constantly Undersold. Oddly enough, the one correspondent not represented is Anon, so-favoured by the writer of all those boring poems in school anthologies.
There is, however, an Unsigned who is very stroppy about Article 10 of the partnership's constitution, which says that no partner shall be paid more than 25 times the minimum received by "a married man resident in the County of London and having four dependent children".
Article 10, Unsigned suggests, would be more right-on if amended to "no partner shall receive take-home pay of more than 25 times the minimum received by a married person living within the M25".
Furthermore, Unsigned continues, he or she doubts very much whether the chairman still earns no more than 25 times whoever-it-is, although conceding that it is not the chairman's fault if "the market rate for his job has moved up by so much more than that for the humble shop assistant".
Thus far the JLP chairman, Stuart Hampson, is resisting the temptation to burst into print, but personnel director Ian Alexander loyally takes issue with Unsigned.
Article 10, Alexander suggests, is capable of a number of interpretations, and he points to a provision that the chairman is allowed to trouser (not, I trust Unsigned will agree, a sexist verb these days) the equivalent of £5,000 a year in 1900 money, £483,000 today. Silent partner Stuart Hampson's salary is £274,000.
WHAT's in a name? Trouble if you're a Lloyd's Name of course - and I've heard from one, aggrieved not only that Lloyd's gets the sums wrong but that it insists on telling him so in letters that misspell his name.
On the other hand, there is a warning from the 850 ice-cream companies in the Ice-Cream Alliance that another chilly summer like the past two spell disaster. I have that on the authority of the ICA chief executive Lisa Grief.
THE STRANGEST things turn up in the post, like a letter from Adele Biss, chairman of the British Tourist Authority, who wants to "launch a national initiative to attract French shoppers to Britain". Isn't Kenneth Clarke doing enough of that already, with his plunging pound?
I SEE that a recruitment agency and an "image consultant" are to start a "best-dressed accountant" competition. I should be careful if I were them in case they put accountants off their profession. Only the other day, I heard a woman say that her husband had become an actuary because "he found accountancy too exciting". Then there's the problem of what exactly is "well-dressed"? At a dinner-and-dance of one financial services firm, the Best-Dressed Female award went to one dressed as a carrot, while the winning Best-Dressed Male was attired as a woman. That may explain why the carrot was seen leaving with a white rabbit.
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