Clarks Desert Boots

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The Fast Show – a UK TV show from the mid-1990’s  – had a wealth of characters created by Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse – amongs others. One particular favourite was “Louis Balfour” – played by John Thomson – who was the oh so slightly pretentious presenter of “Jazz Club” with a catchphrase – when all else failed – of “Nice!”. You rarely got to see his feet but my bet is that he would’ve worn Clarks Desert Boots

See here a sample of Jazz Club The Best of Louis Balfour’s Jazz Club

Now you have to follow this, Louis was cut from a very similar cloth to a couple of Art Masters at my last school. They insisted on being called “Chris” and “Steve” as indeed I suspect they were their real names and as 6th Formers it seemed odd to continue with “Sir”. They wore corduroy jackets – in brown and country green – one with contrasting leather elbow patches – they had a penchant for practical Farah Hopsack trousers – don’t ask – and each had several pairs of iconic Clarks Desert Boots.

Quite what desert there were planning to cross in leafy Cheshire was uncertain but none the less these two were simply the coolest guys in the school.  “Steve” with his long hair even drove a late reg VW Beetle – click here to our previous post Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined – you can imagine he was already ice cool to me.

Assured not to be bitten by scorpions nor rattle snakes, Clarks Desert Boots to this day are an iconic and a highly flexible wardrobe essential that you can wear with jeans, moleskins or chinos and they will always look the part. Just avoid wearing in the rain – they are suede and, after all, are intended for deserts!

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C. & J. Clark International Ltd, (“Clarks”) was founded in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Street, (Somerset, England) where its HQ is still based – although manufacturing is now predominantly undertaken in Asia. Clark’s continues to be 84% family owned.

Since 1879 the Clark’s trade mark has been the distinctive Glastonbury Tor with the St Michael’s tower.

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The Desert Boot was launched in 1950 having been designed by the co-founders, James’, great-grandson, Nathan Clark, a serving British Army Officer based in Burma. It is said that the Desert Boot was based on the unlined boots made in the bazaar’s of Cairo for returning British Army Officers during the Second World War.

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Post War the Desert Boot saw adoption by the Mod Culture in UK, the Beatnik Culture in the US and were known to be a favourite of the Student anit-capitalist demonstrations in Paris in May 1968.

Why not be like Steve McQueen or Liam Gallagher and get a pair of Clarks original Desert Boots – please click the links below the images below to be directed to AMAZON – the two links show the full colour range available.

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Clarks Desert Boot, Men’s Derby, Braun (Cola Suede), 10 UK

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Clarks Originals Desert Boot, Men’s Derby Lace-Up, Brown (Brown Sde), 9 UK 43 EU)

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Images courtesy of C & J Clark International Limited

Brompton Bicycles

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I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.

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It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike

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Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image

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Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium

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The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Rose’s Lime Cordial

The conventional thinking of those who live in warmer countries – where coincidentally alcoholic drinks seem to be cheaper – is starting with a Bloody Mary at breakfast there is a day long alcoholic binge culminating in aromatic “sticky” post dinner drinks. This is clearly a cliche and one that I don’t recognise from my family, colleagues, friends and contemporaries.

What I do know is that we are all being encouraged to increase our intake of water.

Personally, I am very fond of conventional “still spring water” – such as Evian and Lanjaron. They are widely available and if served cold are delicious. However, it is often the custom as an alternative to coffee at a mid-morning stop to go to a cafe where I prefer to have sparkling water – in itself fine – but certainly dull after a while.

I have discovered the perfect alternative is to add a couple of cubes of ice and a decent glug of Roses Lime Cordial to your sparkling water to turn it into a truly refreshing and delightful excuse to hydrate.

Limes – and other circus fruits – were discovered by James Lind in 1753 to cure those affected by scurvy – particularly prevalent in the Navy where from 1795 daily rations were dispensed to great effect. The popular method of preserving the fruit during this era was to steep them in rum.

Rose’s Lime Cordial – also called Rose’s Lime Juice – is a concentrated fruit juice patented in 1867 by Lauchlin Rose as a means to preserve citrus juice without the need for alcohol thus opening up the market for his product.

In 1868, Rose established his first factory producing on Commercial Street, Leith (Scotland) adjacent to the Old East Dock. Most limes used by Rose arrived from  Dominica in the West Indies and in time he purchased plantations to there to ensure supplies.

In 1875 Rose moved the head quarters of his company to London’s docks though it still retained its Leith factory. In 1940, due to wartime bombing it moved the HQ to St Albans in Hertfordshire – north of London.

Post WWII its market share grew and in 1957 it was acquired by Schweppes who operated the brand – and held a Royal Warrant to HM Queen Elizabeth II “as manufacturers of Schweppes and Rose’s soft drinks” – following its merger with Cadbury’s – until in 2008 when Cadbury’s divested its drinks operations transferring Rose’s to the newly formed Dr Pepper Snapple Group as part of its Mott’s division.

Raymond Chandler is quoted as saying  “A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else.”

Image from Mott’s

Heinz Tomato Ketchup – v – HP Sauce

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Our house is probably no different to most, particularly in the UK, where aside from salt and pepper, breakfast table condiments can cause clear division. I am talking about the Clash of the Titans of iconic breakfast sauces. Heinz Tomato Ketchup -v- HP Sauce!

If you wonder down London’s Fulham Road upon ordering a takeaway sausage or bacon sandwich at recently refurbished “The Cherry on the Top Cafe” – or any similar “greasy spoon” – you’ll be asked simply “Red or Brown sauce?”. “The Red” referred to is, usually, Heinz Tomato Ketchup – my son’s favourite and “The Brown” is almost always HP Sauce – my favourite.

The original recipe for HP Sauce was invented and developed in 1899 by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer from Nottingham. It is understood that he used “HP” – standing for Houses of Parliament – a building which appears on the HP bottle’s logo to this day. It’s rumoured that the sauce was used at the turn of the 20th century in a restaurant at the Houses of Parliament.

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HP Sauce’s uniquely distinctive taste come from the combination of a malt vinegar base, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract and spices. Garton sold the recipe to Edwin Samson Moore for £150 in settlement of a debt. Moore, was the founder of the Midlands Vinegar Company (the forerunner of HP Foods) and launched his HP Sauce in 1903.

Until 2007 production was at the HP factory in Aston, Birmingham. One of the giant logos from the top of the tower – a local landmark – is now in the collection of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.

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Quintessentially a British product – at heart if not now of manufacture – its place in the national psyche is fixed – and annual sales in excess of 28 million bottles attests to this icon’s popularity. Even John Betjeman wrote of the product in his poem “Lake District” – “I pledge her in non-alcoholic wine / And give the HP Sauce another shake.”

The HP brand was transferred from the Midlands Vinegar Company to Smedley HP Foods Limited, and then sold to the French Groupe Danone SA in 1988 for £199m. In June 2005, Heinz purchased HP Foods from Danone and in October 2005 the UK Office of Fair Trading referred the takeover to the Competition Commission which approved the £440m acquisition in April 2006.

In May 2006, Heinz (now KraftHeinz) announced – to great controversy – its plans to switch production of HP Sauce from Aston to its European sauces facility in Elst, Netherlands. The factory at Aston ceased production on 16 March 2007.

Although its available in many different varieties the glass HP bottle is still readily available – and iconic. Above all it’s well worth the wait, however frustrating, for the viscous and delicious blown sauce to descend from the neck of the upturned open bottle. You can always opt for the soft and squeeze bottle!

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And in the Red corner…

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Introduced in 1876, Heinz Tomato Ketchup is produced by H.J. Heinz Company and is one of the world’s  best selling ketchup brands and heinz has for many years used the slogan “America’s Favorite Ketchup”.

In 1907, Heinz started producing 12 million bottles of ketchup per year, exporting all over the world. The packaging of Heinz Ketchup is perhaps as iconic as the contents and the wide variety of bottles used over the years mirrors the very similar brand development of Coca-Cola.

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Now I get this condiment’s tomato/vinegar/spice combination works well on many foods it’s particularly good with chips and hot dogs – with added mustard – see here our previous post on the wonderful Maille Dijon Mustard – Maille Dijon mustard.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup is clearly very popular. As of 2012, there are more than 650 million bottles of Heinz Tomato Ketchup being sold every year throughout the world.

Heinz introduced its iconic octagonal glass bottle in 1889 and the bottle was patented in 1890. The octagonal glass bottle is still in use today. Like HP Sauce, the ketchup has high viscosity so dispensing from glass bottles can be difficult. Tapping the glass bottle seems to aid pouring. On its website, Heinz suggests that the best place to tap the bottle is on the “57” mark.

Many other varieties of packaging of Heinz Tomato Ketchup are available including the “upside-down”squeezable bottle. Like HP Sauce, Heinz has tested an sold many different variation of the basic ketchup including organic and lower salt versions.

Where does the name “Ketchup” come from? The origins date from 17th century where a Chinese pickled fish and spice concoction was called “kôe-chiap”. By the early 18th century in the Malaysia/Singapore the word for the sauce had become kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”) and became corrupted to “Ketchup” by keen English colonials who eventually took the product to the Americas.

In March 2015 KraftHeinz cause a slight ripple of frenzy on social media was asked to vote in the Red vs. Brown after the votes were counted it was reported that first place had been taken by Heinz Tomato Ketchup securing 51% of the vote. So Red sells more and won by 1%. Still not good enough to change my alliegiance!

I guess the only real winner in this contest is KraftHeinz as they own both brands along with many other family favourite sauces. For guests with diverse tastes perhaps the only way is to serve both!

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Why not fill your larder with these essential supplies – Please click the link below the image to oreder on AMAZON

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Heinz HP The Original Brown Sauce 285 g (Pack of 8)

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Heinz Tomato Squeezy Ketchup 342 g (Pack of 10)

Pick your colours!

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Founding Member Brown Sauce Appreciation Society T-Shirt Men’s Cotton Daddies HP

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I Put Ketchup on my Ketchup Red T-Shirt – Mens Red, Medium

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Photo from KraftHeinz and The Birmingham Post