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September 2010

A word of thanks

We've just taken delivery of this Lego set from Andrew Arnold, fellow 26 member and Communications Manager at Lego.

It's part of a swap deal involving a set of Pentone mugs, which are now making their way over to Andrew in Denmark. We suspect we got the better side of the deal.

The swap came about through the Creative Review Tweetup last week, at which Lego was the main sponsor. The event gets a good write-up over here.

Let's mingle

Tomorrow night is the Creative Review tweetup at the Design Museum, where everyone is invited to bring along a piece of work to form a mini-exhibition.

I'm planning to attend and thought I'd write this new Pentone for the occasion. (Pentone being our system for dividing language into tone of voice samples, as Pantone does with colour.)

It should be a fairly accurate reflection of how tomorrow night will go.


Photographed in our local library car park.

Cat bin woman strikes again?

Mr Clone


About a month ago we launched a new project called Mr Blog, designed to document all the 'Mr' shops on our high streets. Since then, in the guise of Mr Blog and his put-upon colleague Mr Tweets, we've recorded about 30 characters, including Mr News, Mr Egg, Mr Cobbler and Mr Maggot Man.

It's partly a fun exercise, celebrating a form of branding that we've always enjoyed. But there's also a semi-serious point behind it – about the importance of valuing these homespun characters at a time when they're being crowded out by national chains and global brands.

This week, the New Economics Foundation published a report on the UK's trend towards 'clone towns', which bears out this point. The report classes 41% of Britain's towns as 'clones', where more than half of the stores are chains. A further 23% are on the verge of joining them. Cambridge is singled out as the worst offender, with high rents forcing independent retailers out of the town centre (a charge denied by various authorities in Cambridge).

At the other end of the scale, Whitstable is singled out for praise, with a strong mix of independent stores.

There's an inexact parrallel between all of this and the 'Mr' branding device. After all, some 'Mr' shops are chains themselves (step forward Mr Bagels). Nevertheless, it turns out we have two Whitstable 'Mr's on our files, including todays' Mr Snips. (The triple-barrelled Mr Chips Fish Bar is also waiting in the wings.) Meanwhile we've yet to track down a single Mr in the much larger town of Cambridge.

Further down the line, we might publish an official Mr Survey and see how the results track against the the NEF report.

In the meantime, you can enjoy the continuing investigations of Mr Blog over at http://www.mr-blog.com and follow @Mr_Tweets for more updates.

Picture taken from MENmedia


Came across this poem while walking around Blaze Farm in the Peak District. There doesn't seem to be any trace of it elsewhere on the internet, so we thought we'd put it up here.

There's something particularly satisfying about mnemonic poems that teach you something. Groucho Marx once said his favourite poem was the one that starts '30 days hath September' because it's the only one that helps you remember something useful.

This one has a quite a melancholy tone, written in the past tense, for a world that has lost touch with knowledge that would once have been common across generations.

The full text:



With OAK the old-time ships were laid,
The round-backed chairs of ASH were made,
Of BIRCH were brooms to sweep the floor,
The furniture was SYCAMORE.
Clogs were of ALDER, bows of YEW,
And fishing-rods of bright BAMBOO.
WILLOW was used for cricket bats,
And OAK again for tubs and vats.
Of PINE the roof-beams and the floor
Or for the window frames and door.
ELM made a waggon or a cart
And MAPLE was for carver's art.
BEECH was for bowls, pipes were of BRIAR,
And many woods would make a fire,
But in the cottage or the hall
   ASH made the brightest fire of all.

Other books released today


With the release of Tony Blair's autobiography dominating the media today, it struck me that it must be a very bad time for someone else to release a book.

I went here to check who the unfortunate people were. Here are some of the titles I found – I couldn't spot any particular theme:

Act of Murder
Misty Gordon and the Mystery of the Ghost Pirates 
Mastering the World of Selling
All About Me
Life of Jesus 
Politics – According to the Bible
Invented Religions
Why Does God Let It Happen?
Blind Fury
In The Spin Of Things
Liability for Psychiatric Damage
Diarrhea (Clinical Gastroenterology)
Inventing Iraq
Best Fairy Stories Of The World
Growing Old Disgracefully Calendar 2011