Showing posts from June, 2016


For some weeks now, I have been obsessed by the “Polygon” puzzle, in the appropriately named “MindGames” section of The Times newspaper. The aim is simple enough – create as many words as possible from a ring of seven to nine letters, while always including a further letter in the centre of the ring. This is simple enough, but the rules The Times impose on the puzzle drive me to distraction. Your words must be of a minimum length (usually three or four letters), and must be listed in the Oxford Concise English Dictionary. They must also not be capitalised words or proper nouns, plurals, comparatives or superlatives, adverbs ending in -ly, or be a conjugated verb – I can say I “hate” these rules, but I can’t say I “hated” them. Even worse, your results are given a rating. For example, if you find twelve words, that could be “average,” with 17 listed as “good,” 22 as “very good,” and 28 as “excellent.” I know I have enough of a vocabulary to make myself understood, and nothin


There’s nothing like a dystopian vision of the future to spark a conversation. Many science fiction stories comment on the state of the world by showing how it will get out of hand, unless the reader does something to stop it. This was what I had in mind when I tried to answer this question: what would be the two words that would bring Britain to its knees? My answer was FINAL CAKE, for the prospect of no more cake, no matter how much a flight of fantasy that actually sounds, would tear a bigger hole in humanity than if something ever happened to, say, money, which is just as unthinkable. If “no more cake” is something that could ever happen, it is the sort of event that will hit when it is too late for anyone to do anything about it, having taken its existence for granted for too long. Cake is entertainment. Cake is talked about as much as it is eaten. People are more likely to watch someone baking a cake on television than do it themselves and, with the level of artistry ex


Thirteen days from now, we will have discovered our destiny, as the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union has taken on more meaning than was ever intended. While the original 1975 referendum on the UK’s membership of the “Common Market” was more centred on the price of food, with its talk of butter mountains and wine lakes, this vote has blown past concern over the economy, and even over migration, becoming a moment when we are expected to decide what sort of country we want to live in... at least, that is how it seems to me. Last Monday, I took delivery of my postal vote, which was completed and sent away the following day. While I am in the seemingly enviable position of no longer having to listen to the slanging match being played out in our 24-hour news cycle, having heard enough to decide which way to vote, I am experiencing as much anxiety over the result as I did when Scotland voted on independence in 2014. I didn’t have a vote for


Last month, the Co-Op, as no-one ever called it “The Co-Operative,” began returning to its original 1968-93 “cloverleaf” logo, and I approve of this very much. The reason for the new-old look is to recapture the image of a strong, ethically-minded group of services owned by its customers, moving on from the issues that plagued its bank, and providing focus at a time when Co-Op innovations, such as the traffic light food labelling system, and the selling of Fairtrade products, are now expected from all retailers. When the John Lewis Partnership is doing as well as ever, selling the benefits of your business to your customer, and hope in an ideal form of business, is more important than ever. The Co-Op logo is a stout stamp of confidence that, in these times, fits within the space of an app icon on a phone, looks unlike anything else out there and, most usefully, can be spotted from a mile away. It is inextricably linked with what the business stands for that nothing else can