Proper Crisps

The other day we were wandering through Marks & Spencer, when the power of subliminal advertising gave me a great plan: buy some crisps.

Now I fondly remember years ago getting a Saturday night treat of M&S beef and onion crisps, but over the past few years the general quality of crisps has gone into a steady decline. The food police have convinced (almost) everyone that having a bag of a crisps every now and again as a treat is a Bad Thing. We must instead be nannied into eating the oxymoronic “healthier crisps” because there are a several fatties wandering around who just couldn’t say no to a third bag during that 15 minute fag break. And they eat them as a main meal too.

This has caused crisp manufacturers to come back with such delightful ideas as:

  • frying the potato in different type of oil, which usually tastes crap: the manufacturers stuck with the original one years ago because it tasted the best!
  • “reduced salt crisps” – I’m not advocating a new Walker’s “High Blood Pressure” special range, but come on!
  • “hand cooked crisps” – I don’t think this is billed as being particularly healthier, but it’s usually applied to the more upmarket crisps to give a certain gravitas to their appeal on the shelf in Sainsbury’s. By the way, what the hell exactly makes a crisp “hand cooked”?

And all of that before we even get started on the “exotic” flavours. There used to be a bag of crisps available called “cheese & onion”. I wasn’t particularly fond of them, but they existed. Then the marketing bods decided that “cheese & onion” just couldn’t cut it in the marketplace these days. So some of the more expensive brands (you know the ones) changed the titles to something like “Cheddar and Red Onion”. I liked them – still cheese & onion, but they were a little different. All was good, but unfortunately that didn’t last long.

They then ditched what was a perfectly good snack (or two if you had the discipline to put away half of a big bag), and changed it to what I believe is now called “Vintage Cheddar and Red Onion Chutney”. Now these are horrible – I’m not a big fan of chutneys and the flavouring on these things is far too sharp. We were back to the same problem as the healthier crisps – the crisps were fine originally, but then the makers fiddled with them and things went wrong.

But now things are good having discovered these wonderful M&S beef and onion crisps. Of course they’re not called “M&S Beef and Onion crisps”. I forget the original the official title, but I would imagine it’s along the lines of “This isn’t just a bag of crisps, it’s a Marks and Spencer bag of Tenderly-Reared Matured Beef and Organic Corn-Fed Onion potato chips”. Either way: it’s in a brown bag, in the snacks section of your local M&S store – highly recommended!

The other hope is that with all these new superlatives being applied to what is essentially fried, flavoured potato, you might get a bigger bag to fit all the lettering on. Do you heck!

Note for Americans who understand vi – :%s/crisps/chips/g

Bin and Gone

Got back from the North-East on Monday evening and our black bin had been collected. Green bin was collected on schedule today.

I’m sure you can all sleep that little bit better, safe in the knowledge that my domestic refuse collection is back on track.

Disconnected Words

According to the calendar on my blog, it’s been a week since my last entry. Hardly the “one-a-day” entries I was hoping for. This has been a combination of visiting family in our native Sunderland and being monstrously busy at work.

Drove North on Friday night, returning Monday. Unfortunately we stayed with my wife’s parents and a lack of broadband meant a long time disconnected from the 21st century. I’m blessed with an IBM ThinkPad, courtesy of work, but you don’t realise how much in the machine just assumes that you’re permanently connected to the outside world.

Open the lid to power-on and immediately the wireless card goes into a strop, stating rather huffily that no wireless network could be found and demanding that you find one before even contemplating carrying on with what you intended to do (usually demo a few pictures from the local disk). But then subtle things happen, such as network connections suddenly deciding their status needs to be refreshed and hanging the GUI threads until a 30-second timeout pops and returns with the helpful message “The network connection could not be found” – yeah! I know! I left that network behind three layers of security over 300 miles away! I’m not surprised! And while we’re on the subject, why did you think I wanted something from there in the first place?

We’re back now in the land of 24/7 internet (well, more like 23.995/7 due to temporary disconnect / reconnects with the broadband) and normal blog service has resumed. That’s not necessarily good news though…

The Green, Green Glass has Gone

Today saw the collection of our glass recycling box (1 day late), but still no green bin collection. Assuming it is picked-up tomorrow, this has meant that we’re now running a week behind in collections.

From my previous posts on bins, you will recall we alternate black bin / green bin collections, so we’re now in the situation where the green bin collection has caught up with the black bin collection, and now I’m not really quite sure what’s going to happen. Are we going to stay a week late? Are we eventually going to catch up? It’s Christmas in 5 weeks’ time, which adds the usual offset of 2 days to the regular schedule. It’s going to be January before this mess is sorted out.

PS: I never thought I would ever have so much to say about bins.

Supermarket Fuel vs BP Diesel

I usually fill my Honda Accord i-CDTi with regular, supermarket diesel for the reasons most other people do: convenience (that’s where I shop) and price (it’s cheaper than the named brands).

I tried an experiment a couple of weeks ago though – I was at a BP filling station and I thought I would put some BP Ultimate Diesel in to see if it made any difference. No real difference was noticed in general performance, although fuel economy appeared to improve by slightly more than 5%. The problem is that doing experiments with fuel is quite a long process – I always wait until the fuel light comes on (about 10 litres remaining of a 66 litre tank), and then fill it right up. Amount in = amount burnt, which makes it easy to do fuel economy calculations. For me that’s in the region of 450 miles, which at present (luckily for me) is three or four weeks’ worth of usage. Across those lengths of time, other things which affect fuel consumption change too, such as the weather – humidity and air temperature being the two main variables.

I went back to the supermarket diesel for a back-to-back comparison and hated it immediately. Within half a mile of leaving the forecourt, I noticed the car was lumpy to drive and hesitated low down in the rev range (especially before the turbo had spun-up). Drifting along with a slight amount of throttle in either 2nd or 3rd became a pain and overtaking when not on the motorway really made you wait for the engine to confirm it was going to deliver the torque and then go for it. This seemed to ease off a little the further through the tank I got, but it was still poor.

I’ve heard bits and pieces in the past that modern engines adapt their behaviour to suit the quality of fuel provided, so maybe it was making the best of what it could. Don’t know if that’s true or not. But either way, the supermarket diesel was much worse than the BP stuff. So the moral of the story is that BP Ultimate Diesel for me is worth it.

Or so I thought.

Having thankfully got to the bottom of the last batch of supermarket fuel, I went out and filled up with some more BP Ultimate Diesel. For a variety of reasons due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn’t see the price of the fuel before I started to dispense it. This stuff is priced at an eye-watering 109.9p per litre – the most I’ve ever paid for fuel. For those not in this country, 109.9p per litre at today’s exchange rate (at CDN $2.03 or US $2.06 per UKP) is a whopping CDN $ 8.45 / US $ 8.56 per US gallon.

Now I paid nowhere near 109.9 for the diesel the last time I put BP fuel in, so I’m thinking maybe I only put regular BP diesel in last time. I’ve got 50 litres of the stuff, which better be good! I think next time I’ll probably stick with the regular BP diesel and avoid the supermarket stuff.

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