Opinel Knives

Designed in 1890 by Joseph Opinel.

History: Opinel is a family run company that has manufactured wooden-handled knives since 1890 from Savoie, France. They sell around 15 million knives yearly.

Opinel knives are mostly made of finest grade Swedish Sandvik steel with a beechwood handle and famously float in water. In 1955 Marcel Opinel increased the safety of the larger knives in the range by inventing and patenting the Virobloc or twist lock safety collar mechanism that locks and prevent the knife’s blade from opening or closing inadvertently.

The curve of the original Opinel blade is a known as “Yataghan”. This blade is featured on the eleven models of the original product that are currently available.

The traditional Opinel is designed to be opened with two hands and there is a nail nick  on the blade for this purpose. There is a traditional way of opening the knife known as   “the coup du savoyard” which involves tapping the handle hard on a heel or table to release the blade which is then moved into place by the thumb.

My Opinel Knife: I have half a dozen of these knives in various sizes, I have them in the car, in picnic boxes and my tackle bag. They have been used to slice salami and baguette in France, rope in England and tortilla in Spain. They are beautifully made wonderfully versatile and a pleasure to use.

Your Opinel Knife – please share your experiences of using these fantastic little knives we’d love to hear from you. 

Photo of a No 12 Opinel Knife from Opinel

Swan Vestas Matches

Founded in 1883 in Bootle on Merseyside by the Collard & Kendall match company, the Swan brand began as “Swan wax matches”. These comprised a wooden splint soaked in wax.

In 1906 they were renamed “Swan Vestas’ becoming a brand of Bryant and May and by the 1930s ‘Swan Vestas’ had become ‘Britain’s best selling match’.

The brand is now owned by the Swedish Match company who manufacture Swan Vestas in Sweden from sustainabily grown aspen wood. They are the most popular brand of “strike-anywhere” matches in the UK.

My Swan Vestas: Two stories highlight the importance of this iconic British brand, one is true and the other is probably appocraphal.

The first, I recall from my Father who was senior in Marketing for Shell in London. Shell’s advertising agency for almost everything was Ogilvy and Mather. David Ogilvy, the genius advertising guru, was a pipe smoker who often carried Swan Vestas but not for simply lighting his tobacco. The story goes that he advised my Father that post a visit to an unfamiliar bathroom that the resulting odor could be quickly dispersed by the judicious use of a couple of struck Swan Vestas!

We have them in all bathrooms to this day and, as far as I can tell no-one in our house smokes a pipe!

When studying Law in the late 1970’s in order to illustrate the power of an enforceable Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) my Contracts Professor told the following story:

A pipe-smoker arrived at Bryant and May’s door claiming that he had a way of saving the company thousands a year but prior to disclosing his idea he needed the comfort of a signed NDA. The agreement would for the foreseeable future guarantee he and his descendants a percentage of the financial interest in the saving that the company would make as a result of his unique idea.

The company agreed and an acceptable document was drafted and signed by both parties.

Suitably comforted the pipe-smoker explained that he had smoked a pipe for many years and in all that time he had never had to resort to using the second edge of glass paper adhered to the box as only one of the two strips of glass paper had proved more than sufficient for striking all of the boxes “average contents” of 85 matches.

Enthusiastically, Bryant and May accepted his idea as the incremental saving on glass paper – by adhering it to only one edge – was, of course, significant. The story ran that our pipe-smoking hero and his family financially benefitted for many years from this cleaver thinking and the NDA assured them of payment!

Your Swan Vestas Matches : Why not share your experiences of using Swan Vestas Matches? We’d really like to hear from you.

Photo from Swan Vestas





Marmite is made from yeast extract – a by-product of beer brewing. It is savoury spread with a truly distinctive, rather salty, taste and is a British culinary icon.

Best, in my opinion on hot buttered toast, I am led to believe that not everyone loves Marmite.

The forerunner of Marmite as we know it today, a bottled concentrate of brewers yeast, was invented by a German scientist Justus von Liebig in the late 19th century.

In 1902, The Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in in Burton upon Trent (Staffordshire) with the yeast paste being supplied by the local Bass Brewers. By 1907, the success of Marmite prompted the construction of a second factory in South London’s Camberwell Green area.

Its name derives from the French word “Marmite”, meaning a large covered cooking pot, and since the 1920s Marmite has been sold in iconic glass jars – depicted above – that take their shape from the French pots.

So loved on the British breakfast tables, jeweler, Theo Fennell, created a sliver replacement lid for the famous yellow lid of the classic jar.


Although the precise composition is a closely guarded trade secret, Marmite has long been known for it healthy properties. Rich in Vitamin B and was used by the troops in the First World War as a supplement to combat beri-beri. Its richness Folic Acid has been used since the 1930’s for the treatment of anaemia and to this day Marmite is often taken by expectant mothers for the same reason.

In 2000, after a number of corporate incarnations and mergers, Marmite became a Unilever brand.

Would you like a jar of Marmite? You can buy a huge jar by clicking the following AMAZON link – Marmite Yeast Extract Paste in a Glass Jar , 500g

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Photos from Unilever and Theo Fennell

Bialetti Moka Coffee Pot


Alfonso Bialetti (1888–1970) was a metals engineer who acquired Luigi De Ponti’s invention of the Moka Express coffee pot – an Italian classic and iconic design.

Bialetti worked in the French aluminium industry for over a decade and by 1919 he’d established his own workshop in Crusinallo (Piedmont) and later a studio for design and production.

Bialetti completed his design for the clean-lined eight-sided aluminium Moka Express in 1933. It is known affectionately in Italy as “la macchinetta” (“the little machine”) and has been manufactured largely unaltered for over 70 years.

The Moka is a percolator with coffee grains being loaded into an internal metal filter that is placed over a water reservoir and screwed tightly to the upper part of the coffee pot – a jug shape. This is then placed on a hob and heated. The hot water rises inside the pot and passes through the coffee, extracting the flavour, passing into the upper jug for serving. Care should be taken not to boil the water as according to the vulgar French expression when using the Moka – “Café bouillu, café foutu ?” (Boiled coffee is erm….ruined coffee!)

Between 1934 and 1940 70,000 units of the Moka were produced and sold at Piedmontese street markets. To date it’s believed that around 330m units of the humble Moka have been produced.

Devised as part of a massive marketing campaign by Alfonso son Renato, in the face of stiff copy-cat product competition, the Moka mascot “the Man with the Moustache” was based on a sketch of Alfonso and was developed into a logo in 1953 by Paul Campani.

Bialetti founded Bialetti Industrie S.p.A a major kitchen ware company (with revenues in 2015 in excess of €170m) and is the grandfather of Alberto Alessi founder of Alessi Design known for is slightly wackier domestic products. See the Alessi Kettle below

I was first introduced to the Bialetti Moka coffee pot in Italy in the late 1980’s bringing a four cup version back to the UK which has been used and enjoyed ever since with the occasional need to change the perishable rubber ring inside the body of the Moka.

Since quitting caffeine in the early 2000’s the quality of decaffeinated coffee has improved immensely so much so that I suspect that even the most hardened coffee drinker would be hard pushed to tell the difference – particularly when using the Moka.

Would you like to own a Bialetti Moya Coffee Pot – you can buy your own by clicking the following AMAZON link – Bialetti Moka Express Espresso Maker, 6 Cup

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Photo by Bialetti

Kodak Super 8

Kodak Super 8 – re-imagine a classic

Designed by Yves Behar, Ilgu Cha, Sarah Neurnberger, Steven Overman, Danielle Atkins.

Available from Q4 2016

Kodak are predicting an analogue renaissance with Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams – both “real” film devotees – have been very enthusiastic about this launch.

A revived version of the 1965 original Super 8 Camera that revolutionised amateur filmmaking.

The 2016 version combines the core of traditional filmmaking techniques – using the Super 8mm amateur format analogue film – with enhanced digital features for a new generation.

Included is a new digitally enhanced version is very flexible view finder – which uniquely for a Super 8 shows you what you are filming – a body mic that syncs to an SD memory card, and HDMI connectors to take to your post production suite – probably on your lap top. With the purchase of your cartridge you pay for the film and the processing which includes the return of an analogue reel of film plays digital links in 4k quality to post to the Cloud for your own post production.

The Super 8mm cartridge loading eliminated the need for threading the film and meant that a complete 50-foot cartridge could be shot without interruption.

The cartridge fed back setting formation to the camera about the speed (ASA) of the film and light filter. In 1973 a magnetic strip was added to the side of the film that made it possible to record sound and visuals simultaneously.

Still a preferred medium for short films, commercial and music videos the unique aesthetic quality of the Super 8 is re-imagined in this compact and easy to use film camera.

Its not for those seeking a quick footage fix but for those keen to to learn more Kodak have a series of tips on using your Super 8 – http://www.kodak.com/Consumer/Products/Super8/Super-8-tips/default.htm

Photo by Kodak

Burberry Trench Coat

First available – c 1914-18

History: Established in 1856 by 21 year old Thomas Burberry who having completed his apprentice as a draper opened a store in Basingstoke. The first shop opened up in The Haymarket, London, in 1891 with its new trophy headquarters being built in 1913. Until 1955 Burberry was a family controlled business.

Probably Burberry most famous product is its trench coat with its highly distinctive lining. The proud recipient of Royal Warrants for the Queen and Prince Charles, Burberry was ranked 73rd in Interbrand’s influential Best Global Brands.

In 1879, Burberry introduced in his brand the gabardine a water-resistant fabric which is treated by being waterproofed before weaving. In 1901, the Burberry Equestrian Knight Logo was developed and was later registered as a trademark in 1909.

As part of the Burberry heritage their products were used in 1911 by South Pole explorer Roald Amundsen, in 1914 by Ernest Shackleton and in 1924 in an attempt to climb Mount Everest by George Mallory.

The signature Burberry trench coat was developed to meet the needs of troops in the First World War which, post War, became popular with civilians. The iconic Burberry check lining to its trench coats has been in use since at least the 1920s.

Burberry was taken over by Great Universal Stores in 1955 who in 2005 divested its remaining interest in Burberry. Burberry Group Plc was floated on the London Stock Exchange in July 2002 and Burberry first began selling online in the US followed by the UK in October 2006 and the rest of the EU in 2007.

Burberry promotes its British connection, it was reported as of July 2012 that Burberry maintains two production facilities in Yorkshire, one in Castleford producing raincoats, and one in Keithley. GQ November 2016 carried an advert featuring “The Burberry Artisans” depicting Fabric Inspector, George Edmondson, at Burberry Mill (England) holding a roll of what looks like traditional Burberry check raincoat lining material.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s http://www.goop.com cites the role played by CEO Christopher Bailey, – who continued the legacy of former CEO Angela Ahrendts – to bring Burberry’s into the 21st century “without sacrificing an ounce of integrity, this quintessential British brand is still going strong. Everything from the classics—the iconic trench,…. to the cool, of-the-moment designs that run the gamut from artful, watercolor prints to studded-leather everything, is quality through and through.”

 My Burberry Trench Coat: I bought a raglan sleeve Burberry trench coat in 1992 – or  nearly 20 years ago. An absolute favourite never too warm or too cold perfect for spring and autumn. The quality of the sticking has survived at least two reproofing’s the original at the old Haymarket store.

I have a picture taken outside the office of our old law practice in Mayfair of me and a former and much admired colleague on our way to an In and Out (on Piccadilly) military dinner in black tie looking for the world like a couple of yuppies – and man did we play that part so well….

Your Burberry Trench Coat?:

Hunter Green Wellington Boots


Launched: Green Wellington 1955

History: Hunter Boot Ltd. is the maker of fine rubber wellington boots.

Established in January 1856 as Norris & Co. (later to become the North British Rubber Company Ltd in September 1857) by Henry Lee Norris (from New Jersey) and Spener Thomas Parmelee (of New Haven) who arrived in Glasgow to work on a Charles Goodyear patent to manufacture rubber overshoes and boots. The company is now headquartered in Edinburgh

A true British heritage brand, Hunter is a Royal Warrant holder “as suppliers of waterproof footwear” to both the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

Norris succeeded at the company by William Erskine Bartlett who sold his “Bartlett” patent to British Dunlop for just under $1m to acquire the rights to manufacture and distribute rubber tyres that were substantially similar to those used today.

 World War I saw a dramatic boost in wellington boot production as a result of an order from the War Office to construct a sturdy boot suitable for the conditions in flooded trenches, over 1.1m pairs were made. Likewise, in World War II 80% of production was for war materials, with the boots becoming a firm favourite with the services and civilians alike.

After WWII, boot making moved to a larger factory in Heathhall, Dumfries and in the winter of 1955 the famous Original Tall Green wellington was launched., was made over 50 years ago in the winter of 1955.

In 1966, North British Rubber was bought by car tyre manufacturer, Uniroyal who in turn sold to Gate Rubber Company in 1986 which became a wholly owned subsidiary of Tomkins Plc in 1996 who sold on their interest in 1999 to Interfloor – an underlay manufacturer. In 2004, a management-led investor group acquired the Hunter Boots business of Interfloor Group Ltd for £1.98m becoming the independent Hunter Rubber Company. There followed announcements that to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Green Wellington seven different coloured boots would be launched.

In 2006, the Hunter Rubber Company was placed into administration being purchased by a private consortium funded by the Pentland Group Ltd re-launching as Hunter Boot Ltd with a substantial re-structuring of the business saw itself re-established as a major player in the traditional country and leisure footwear markets with summer 2007 seeing an 85% sales increase against the same period in 2006.

High manufacturing and fuel costs caused the business to move production overseas to China and Indonesia – some feel that this had an impact on quality. The likes of Gwyneth Paltrow style guide site www.goop.com doesn’t agree calling Hunter’s and associated rainwear “impeccable, long-lasting quality that result in the kinds of enduring must-haves that become hand-me-downs”.

My Green Hunter Wellingtons: As a kid I remember the chunkiness and smell of our wellingtons they were always a little too tall scratching the backs of our knees but no Sunday ramble, Bonfire Night or Autumn garden clear-up was complete without our trust Wellys.

As an adult, my pair of Hunters bought in the mid 1980’s were a constant site at the banks of a fishing river, a Point to Point and on country walks. That pair unfortunately rotted in an outside shed some years ago – the peril of mistreating real rubber – but as the impact of years of cycling took hold of my calves I was delighted to try on, at Hunter’s Regent Street showroom, a pair with a very comfortable and expandable calf section!

Your Hunter Wellingtons?: Sharing your experiences of this wonderful British brand couldn’t be easier either complete the “Leave a Reply” section below or Reblog this post but we’d really like to hear your tales of the joys of owning a pair of classic Hunter Wellington Boots.


Image by Hunter