Mr Sykes and his boundary commission

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The Independent Online
Paul Sykes likes a challenge. As the man behind the Meadowhall Centre in Sheffield and reputedly the 72nd richest person in Britain, you would have thought he would take it easy.

Not a bit of it. I am not talking about his recent selection as Tory candidate for Barnsley Central, where he has to overturn a Labour majority of 21,000. ("I'd need to be Ben Hur to do that, but I were born there," he says).

I am referring rather to his attempt to bribe his way into his local village cricket team. Studley Royal, in North Yorkshire, is in the Nidderdale League and Mr Sykes wants to get into it. He is a medium-fast swing bowler, but obviously doesn't think he is a very good one. He has given the team pounds 20,000, and explains why. "I've blackmailed them so they'll give me a game," he says. "I thought if I gave them some money, they might at least give me a place in the outfield." With honesty like that, he would bring a breath of fresh air to the Commons ...

Dermot Mulqueen is a young man from the West of Ireland with big ambitions. He wants to set up a "broad-based media company", even though at the moment he has, well, lots of ideas and not a whole lot else.

But if persistence pays off, he should be rewarded. He has spent the last three years drawing up plans to hold two music festivals in Greenwich Park in south-east London, an astrolabe's throw from the Millennium Exhibition. Admittedly his original plan was to hold the concerts in 1994, but they didn't get off the ground so he is bouncing back with new schemes for 1999 and 2000.

His problem, he acknowledges, is that he is not an established impresario. In fact he has never organised a festival before. Never mind: he's determined, he's Irish and he hopes Tony O'Reilly or Guinness spot an entrepreneurial compatriot and offer him a few punts. Two- and-three-quarter million he needs - surely that's not asking too much?

I should cocoa

I was asked by a colleague from the colonies why the British say they have "made a Horlicks" of something. I wondered what cockney slang it could come from - malt drink, stink, perhaps. Or maybe Mr Horlicks was a sort of ancient Mr Bump - couldn't do anything right, except invent malt drinks. A little investigation produced a much less satisfactory explanation. "Horlicks" is an Eighties invention, and is simply a less upsetting version of another vaguely similar word that the modern young people may print, but that I will leave to the imagination.

Then I was asked something else (people keep on asking me things). What is the origin of Tesco? I started digging, and soon found myself finding out some fascinating stuff about trade names.

It seems young Jack Cohen had a small market stall and big ambitions after the First World War. So he signed up with a tea merchant, TE Stockwell, to provide him with his own brand of tea. Putting its name and his together, he came up with Tesco; that was in 1924.

I ventured on, turning now to a book called How it All Began (by Maurice Baren, Smith Settle, 1992). What about Hovis for example? Well, the name was invented by Herbert Grimes, a London student, who entered a competition to find a name for a new sort of bread. He came up with hominis vis - the strength of a man - and shortened it to Hovis. They don't make students like that any more.

Who was Bond of Brooke Bond? No-one at all - in 1869 Arthur Brooke called his first shop Brooke, Bond and Co because "it seemed to him to sound well".

Was Doc Marten a mythical creature too? Not a bit. Klaus Maertens was a German orthopaedic doctor who had an unfortunate skiing accident in 1945 that made walking in conventional shoes somewhat tricky. He and his mate, Herbert Funck (it could have been Doc Funcks), invented the air- cushioned sole, and thus Dr Maertens. But it was only when the Northamptonshire shoemaker William Griggs took up the manufacturing rights that the cult Doc Martens were born.

Final question. Was there a Mr Horlick? No - there were three. James and William came from the Forest of Dean, and their cousin Joseph lived in Wisconsin. They got together in the 1870s, and invented the drink we all know and love. End of lesson.