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Saturday 31 December 2016

Review - Nicholas Crane: The Making of the British Landscape

Nicholas Crane: The Making of the British Landscape
Nicholas Crane
The Making of the British Landscape (2*)

I was so much looking forward to reading this book by the popular television geographer, but I am sorry to say I did not get on very well with it at all. The author makes reference to an enormous number of locations, frequently comparing different parts of the country, yet much of the time he uses archaic or local place names that leave you wondering where they actually are. It might help if there were maps, but there are none, not even of Doggerland, the region now submerged under the North Sea which had so great an influence on the making of what we now know as Britain. On top of this, the prose is difficult to read, some would say turgid, largely in the past passive voice with long lists. The book could have been either lyrical and popular or thorough and academic, but in falling in between it is neither. He is no W. G. Hoskins.

Reviews - Alistair Cooke: Letter From America and America

Alistair Cooke: Letter From America Alistair Cooke: America
Alistair Cooke
Letter From America 1946-2004 (3*)
America (4*)

I used to love Letter from America on Radio 4 at Sunday breakfast, and always said "Good Morning" before Alistair Cooke so it sounded as if he returned the greeting. But despite being intelligent, informative and beautifully phrased, the wordy and soft-focused style belies an intensity of detail. Perhaps these pieces are better heard, or dipped into rather than read all at once. (March 2016)

America is much easier. I acquired this soon after it came out to accompany a BBC television series in 1973, but never got round to reading it. Then someone borrowed and kept it. I now have another copy and what a super book it is. I skipped some of the stuff about the politics of the union, but the story of the explorers, settlers and entrepreneurs is riveting - with some incredible photographs too. (December 2016)

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Hornsea Pottery

I broke my little plate the other night: my treasured Hornsea Pottery Fleur seven-inch side plate. I knocked it off the end of the washing up rack on to the cooker hob. It’s a disaster – so distressing.

Hornsea Pottery Fleur

I once had much more of the same: breakfast bowls, dinner plates, cups and saucers, a milk jug. I bought it all from the pottery shop at Hornsea in the nineteen-seventies but gave it to someone whose set had pieces missing when I moved house a long time ago. Later, I found I still had the little side plate along with a couple of egg cups and storage jars. I have used the plate almost every day since. Only me: it’s my plate.

Hornsea Pottery was based in the out of-the-way Yorkshire seaside town of Hornsea to the north-east of Hull. One of my friends had a family caravan there on the cliff top to the north of the town. We sometimes hitchhiked there for the weekend, or after I learned to drive borrowed my parents’ Hillman Super Minx for the day. We would play football on the sandy beach, hoping the ball would not get blown away by the wind, or walk along searching for fossils in the muddy debris of the rapidly-eroding cliffs. You could find different types from different periods dragged down from the north during the last ice age. And if we got bored there was always the Marine Hotel for an under-age pint.

My friend spent most of his sixth form and university summers at the caravan earning good money as a pottery tour guide. The student guides used to compete to spin the tourists the most outrageous lies. Goodness knows how many tourists went off believing there was a machine called a ‘frigger’ that could turn out fifteen thousand pots per hour.

The pottery expanded to a second site in Lancaster in 1976, and then in 1994 branched out and opened Hornsea Freeport, said to have been the first Retail Outlet Village in the country. Initially the Freeport was very successful but it now struggles to compete with better located outlets such as Junction 32 at Glasshoughton near Castleford. The Freeport survives but the pottery is long gone from both sites. They stopped making the attractive light green Fleur tableware in 1992, and closed for good in 2000. I was last in Hornsea around 2001 when the pottery had become a depressing scene of rusting machinery, discarded clay and sad derelict buildings beyond a high wire fence. It is now a housing estate. Some think the Freeport may sooner or later be heading for the same fate. 

Some things you can’t change, but I can do something about my plate. I have ordered a replacement on ebay. I’ll probably try to kid myself it’s the same one.

An online directory of Hornsea Pottery is at
[link now broken but see instead]

Sunday 11 December 2016

Supermarket Launches New Loyalty Badge Scheme

An off-topic post, exclusive to Tesco Dunham’s Yorkshire Memories

Supermarket Loyalty Badges

A leading supermarket is to launch a new loyalty badge scheme inspired by the post Be Prepared in Tasker Dunham’s Yorkshire Memories, which describes how Wolf Cub proficiency badges promote strong feelings of achievement and loyalty. With this in mind, Tosco are to launch a similar scheme for customers.

Customers will be able to earn discounts by collecting shopping bag badges and car window stickers. Products bought over the Christmas period and throughout the duration of the scheme will be grouped into categories, such as fruit and vegetables, pet food and alcoholic drinks. Once a qualifying amount has been spent in a particular category, customers will be awarded a proficiency badge to show they have earned a 1% discount on all future purchases within that category. Spending twice the qualifying amount earns a 2% discount, and so on, up to 10% until the scheme ends. Customers who purchase a full range of products will therefore be able to earn a whopping 10% discount on the whole of their weekly shop.

One unique aspect of this innovative scheme is the collection of proficiency badges to display on shopping bags and in cars. As in the Wolf Cubs scheme, badges will be colour-coded according to whether they reflect character, skills, service to others or health. Here are some of the badges that will be available:

Blue Badges for Character

Supermarket Loyalty Badges

Customers will be able to show they possess depth of character through blue badges earned when they buy meat and poultry, tobacco products, and beers, wines and spirits.

Yellow Badges for Skills

Supermarket Loyalty Badges

Customers who buy tools and maintenance products, cookware, kitchen equipment and materials for household cleaning and laundry will be able to display their accomplishments on yellow badges.

Red Badges for Service to Others

Supermarket Loyalty Badges

Caring red badges will be awarded to customers who buy babycare products such as formula milk and disposable nappies, and also to those who buy pet care and first aid items.

Green Badges for Healthy Lifestyle

Supermarket Loyalty Badges

Healthy green badges will be awarded to buyers of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholesome food supplements, vitamin pills, over-the-counter medicines, denture fixative and incontinence pads.

Just as in the Wolf Cubs scheme, the Tosco scheme will also allow customers to qualify for glitzy silver stars to fix to the front of their cars and shopping trolleys. For the first star, customers will have to show they can successfully carry out a set of difficult tasks, including steering a loaded shopping trolley safely through a crowded supermarket while collecting a list of fifteen specified items in less than fifteen minutes, using an automated self-service checkout, packing items efficiently into bags, learning Tosco slogans by heart (e.g. Every Little Helps) and executing the Tosco two-fingered salute.