Birthday Cards

It was my birthday a little while ago. I had some lovely cards – although, because my Facebook account is deactivated, for the first year since about 2008, I didn’t get that flurry of warm electronic wishes from friends far and wide.

I missed that, but I also reflected that for every card I received:

An artist or designer had been able to work creatively and be paid for it.

Trees had been cut down and shipped (and replanted – I’m sure all my cards are from sustainable sources) keeping loggers, machinery manufacturers, HGV drivers in employ

A paper manufacturer created pulp and made the card and the envelope it was posted in. Printers applied the design (and bought ink from its own manufacturers who in turn bought and made the dyes to colour the inks)

Somebody put it on a shelf in a shop and sold it. I hope whoever it was that chose it for me had the pleasure of looking through all the possibilities, finding one that they thought was just the thing. I’m sure they did – I had some really smashing cards.

Then it was written, stamped, posted, collected, delivered and received with great pleasure.

So many people had a hand in each of my birthday cards, so many livings and occupations were supported, so much wealth spread around our little economies, such a lot of tax paid and collected.

There are environmental issues to be tackled to be sure – but Facebook’s huge server farms have their problems too. What struck me more forcibly than ever was that at least with my cards it isn’t just Mark Zuckerberg – getting grotesquely, absurdly, undeservedly richer and richer – who benefits.

Thanks to you all – I’ll make sure to remember your birthdays too. x

Birthday Cards

Wowski

In our morning’s drive poor little Wowski (Mr Wynn’s little dog, bought at Wansford Bridge) was run over by the phaeton, and his leg much hurt.

That was in 1788, but it still is news. John Byng notes the incident in passing in the journal he kept of his tour around Sussex* We have never met Wowski before and we never discover if this little dog – a terrier surely – recovers to yap and leap and bother passing carriages again.

Dogs are so often our unacknowledged companions, a call on our heart, but rarely considered important enough to figure in published histories – until poor Wowski leaps into view. He may have been dead for well over 200 years, but I winced when I read about his accident and can’t help hoping  he did eventually recover.

*Published in John Byng’s Rides Around Britain

Wowski

The devil’s nutting bag

One of my favourite bloggers A Clerk of Oxford tweeted that today – September 14 – was once called ‘Devil’s Nutting Day’.

The Devil has an affinity with nutting apparently.

Nutting on any Sunday was risky – you might meet Old Nick as a tall, gentlemanly figure kind enough to offer to pull down high branches for you. Otherwise it was today –  Holy Rood day – that was especially favoured. This, from a  letter John Clare sent to his friend William Hone:

Nutting

(quoted in The English Year by Steve Roud)

Once you start looking, there’s a lot of information about. Renne Reynolds on her blog (Obstinate Headstrong Girl) writes that:

The tradition of a Nutting Day dates back to 1560 Eton, when boys were given a half-holiday to gather nuts, creating the phrase “gone a-nutting.” Consequently, as one might suspect from a tradition associated with young boys, going “a-nutting” soon became a euphemism for sex and seduction, giving rise to its own saying, “a good year for nuts, a good year for babies.”

She quotes:

Grim

I suspect the link between nutting, bad behaviour and old Nick stretches much further back myself.

On another site (German this time, intended for people learning English, although an earnest student would be certainly be met with  incomprehension if he used the reference with the average Englisher) the story begins with :

The Devil’s Nightcap (there are several hills with this name) near Alcester, in Warwickshire…formed when the devil was out nutting on September 21st (known as the Devil’s Nutting Day) and met the Virgin Mary. He was so surprised and shocked that he dropped his bag of nuts, which became the hill.

There is an old Sussex saying ‘as black as the Devil’s nutting bag’, which is associated with the superstition that it is extremely unwise to gather nuts in autumn on a Sunday because that is when Old Nick is himself out nutting. Generally people do not go nutting on any Sunday in autumn because you might meet the devil gathering nuts.

It is mentioned in the play, John Endicott, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow –

ACT I: SCENE II –

“Nice angels!
Angels in broad-brimmed hats and russet cloaks,
The colour of the Devil’s nutting-bag. They came
Into the Meeting-house this afternoon
More in the shape of devils than of angels.
The women screamed and fainted; and the boys
Made such an uproar in the gallery
I could not keep them quiet.”

The devil’s nutting bag

The tale of Callard and Bowser

61f9a96ecd1c78fcdab784dc35ca72d7.jpg

Time was when a pack of Callard and Bowser’s butterscotch was a very special treat. C and I were reminiscing about it recently, sharing a memory of the packet, the square lozenges wrapped in gold foil, the sense of beyond-pocket-money luxury the sweet commanded.

I was left wondering what had happened to the sweet and the brand. Mooching around on the internet I came across this site called Let’s Look Again – a history of branded Britain. It’s a fascinating trawl through the familiar and the nostalgic. Those names – Walls, Huntley and Palmers, Vesta Curries (for heaven’s sake) have a real tug, whether you liked the product or not.

I thought the story of Callard and Bowser somehow emblematic of so much that has happened to brands that were once so distinctively ours. I take up the story just a after Mr Callard bought out Mr Bowser:

Daniel Callard received the 80th trademark issued in Britain in 1876. The thistle logo would adorn his butterscotch into the twentieth century.

Control of the business had passed to Daniel’s son, James Percival Callard (1859 – 1940) by 1891. Expansion had seen the business move to Euston by 1894. Daniel James Callard died in 1903 with an estate valued at £99,570 (around £11 million in 2015).

[…]

Guinness hired a Major Allnatt to build up a confectionery subsidiary in 1951. Allnatt acquired an 80 percent stake in Callard & Bowser and William Nuttall of Doncaster, best known for its Mintoes boiled sweet. The remaining 20 percent stake was purchased in 1957. Allnatt also added Rileys of Halifax (best known for their Toffee Rolls) and Lavells, a confectionery store chain.

A factory on Silverdale Road at Hayes in Middlesex was acquired in 1956. Guinness acquired Rolls Confectionery of Greenford, Middlesex from J Lyons & Co in 1961. The confectionery subsidiary took on the Callard & Bowser name but had its headquarters in Halifax.

By the early 1960s, Edward Sharp & Sons, J A & P Holland, Callard & Bowser and Mackintosh controlled over half of the British toffee market.

The Park Royal factory closed in the 1970s. In 1981 the Nuttall factory in Doncaster was closed down and production was transferred to Halifax. Following the closure C&B employed 1,186 people.

In 1981 the company had sales of £17 million.

Guinness sold Callard & Bowser to Beatrice Foods of Chicago for £4 million in 1982, as part of a drive to focus on its core brewing operation. Beatrice owned the Smith Kendon confectionery group of Bridgend in Wales, and it became a subsidiary of Callard & Bowser.

High business rates and an ageing factory saw the Hayes site closed down in 1983, with the loss of 500 jobs.

The South Wales site had opened in 1974, but in 1984 it was thoroughly modernised and re-opened by Princess Diana.

Callard & Bowser claimed 25 percent of the UK toffee market by 1985. In 1987 combined sales totalled just under £24 million (about £59 million in 2014). Around half of all production was exported to 65 different countries.

In 1988, in an attempt to reduce debt, Beatrice sold Callard & Bowser to United Biscuits for £21.5 million in cash (about £50.4 million in 2014). By this time there were only two manufacturing plants remaining, Halifax and Bridgend. They employed 240 white collar staff and just over 400 hourly paid employees. The Times reported that UB had acquired “one of the best-known and most traditional names in confectionery, famed for its butterscotch”.

Callard & Bowser was fully integrated with United Biscuits’s own Terry’s confectionery company to form the Terrys Group. The combined group had 3 percent of the British sugar confectionery market. In 1991 C&B claimed 33 percent of the UK toffee market. Confectionery production ended at Halifax in 1992. In 1993 UB sold its confectionery operations to Kraft of Chicago.

From the late 1980s, the company had a major success in exporting its Altoids Curiously Strong Mints to America. Packaged in distinctive metal boxes, by 1997 40 million tins were produced every year. Riley’s Toffee Rolls were discontinued in the mid-1990s in favour of increased Altoids production. Cream Line toffees were discontinued in 2001.

In 2004 Kraft sold Callard & Bowser, along with its Lifesavers mint brand, to Wrigley of Chicago for $1.48 billion. By this time Bridgend was shipping 8,000 tonnes of Altoids to America every year.

In 2005 Wrigley closed down the Bridgend plant with the loss of 173 jobs. Wrigley explained the 90 percent of production was being exported to the US, so it was more economical to transfer production there. With the exception of Altoids, the Callard & Bowser and Nuttall’s brands were discontinued.

Wrigley inform me that Callard & Bowser branded Altoids are still sold in Tesco and Morrison’s in Britain, but they are now manufactured in America.

And so it goes

The tale of Callard and Bowser