— UPDATE– A better advert

I rabbited on about adverts for a bit yesterday… well I found one today that tops the lot….

Totally awesome – I may fly British Airways on my next trip abroad, if they weren’t always on strike…


Adverts – The Post-Idea-Desperate Man’s Elixir

I have seen in the last 2 days 3 excellent adverts (commercials) which I have decided to share.

The previous post was all about packaging, and well, adverts are a sort of audio visual packaging. In the same way that my peppercorn pot portrayed purity and quiet sophistication with its imagery and colour, so to do these short videos add moving imagery, sound and music and ‘package’ a product or company.

Numeral unu: Lurpak – a butter company:

What are they up to? The butter is only on screen for about 5 seconds – well like physical packaging they’re stirring up and idea and associating their brand with it.

Numeral doi: Halifax – A bank (actually a bank owned by the government due to economic woes)

Halifax has a recent history of produce rather peculiar adverts – but what they’re up to here is pretty obvious. Banks have always been perceived as rather distant aloof institutions (amplified by the half-understood perceived alchemy of economic disaster that they seem to have visited on everyone). They’re positioning themselves as a champion of the ordinary man or woman. A consumer bank rather than an ‘evil’ investment bank. Of course they’re part of RBS group and they are an investment bank. Nice try though.

Numeral trei: Stella Artois – A Lager beer

These chaps can always be relied on to produce an artistic European themed (its a belgian beer) bit of film. In this case, associating the brand with effortless sophistication.

The Supermarket

This post is slightly in tribute to the magnificent Camille from archiveslives – when she came to visit we had a poke around a couple of our local supermarkets to compare American/Canadian food packaging with our own.

As I have just bought a new camera (more on this to come) I needed something to take pictures of – well why not take pictures of my weekly food shop? So I did. Its even actually relevant because they’re are plenty of design decisions that go into packaging…

An overview - costing £29. We also put the car through the car wash for the princely sum of £4.

Anyway, so this is what we bought to last us the week, i.e. too much. Oddly the most expensive item was the jar of peanut butter. There are quite a few varieties of peanut butter but I rather thought that the version with chocolate chips was probably an indulgence too far.

Food packaging is also about the balance of colour, I’m sure that perception of anticipated taste is probably based on the belief that green is fresh, red and oranges are spicy, and yellow is chips, and chips are tasty – people don’t eat blue food though (here’s a challenge, see how much entirely blue food packaging you can find). So when designing the packaging for a particular product the designer will need to choose the colour and artwork based on which tastes they want to invoke in the buyers imagination.

Beetroot (reduced!)

Exhibit number one – fresh beetroot.

As a supermarket, how do you convey a message that something is natural and wholesome – in fact, something that was probably dug up this morning and delivered to the store on the back of a tractor? In this case, Sainsbury’s has chosen a blue elastic band with a simple purple tag.

Robinsons Barley Water - no one earth knows exactly what this is...

So this is something called squash – now it turns out that Americans don’t know what squash is (other than the vegetable). When I was in Moldova, Andy helped himself to a nice big full glass of undiluted apple and blackcurrant squash. He’s pretty hard core, but even he couldn’t handle it. (Squash is concentrated cordial that needs to be diluted prior to consumption).

I’m not sure that anyone really knows what barley water is, but I think it gives the fruit flavour a nice smooth outcome. Anyway, so this bottle is full of nice yellows, and evocative farm imagery. I guess its trying to stir feelings of hearth and home and in fairness it works quite well – I always associate Barley Water with my grandparents – my grandad always used to have an illicit supply of barley sugar boiled sweets – these were like cocaine for kids, I’d do anything for one. Delicious.


Ros is officially addicted to teas like this, and she doesn’t even have an excuse because its not even the caffeinated ones so its not a chemical addiction, but a psychological one and I think the latter is more disturbing.

This is a fruit tea, its big, bold, red and bursting with flavour, at least that what the packaging says anyway – I’ve always found the taste of such teas to be disappointing.

A pot of peppercorns

I know what I said about blue – but this has only a small blue band…

This little pot of peppercorns has lots of white which indicate purity, and simplicity and the little pestle and mortar is probably trying to suggest that if you buy these you’d instantly have a Nigella Lawson like, open, bright country kitchen.

Anyway – I hope you’ve enjoyed the little tour through my food choices – if anyone else has any interesting packaging examples let me know! Have a relaxing Sunday.

The Big Moldova Blog – Part 8: Two Days for the Price of One [Warning: contains pictures of butchered pigs]

Because I’m a sucker for a bit of adventure – I met Alex at half 5 in the morning outside the school to head for the meat market in Chisinau. I like the mornings but because of my chronic laziness I rarely get to experience a sunrise – so as the bus climbed out of the valley I saw the sun rise over the hills and it was beautiful.

Regretfully I only had my iPhone to rely on for imaging – drat.

Sunrise over Trebujeni

The bus ride cost about 19 LEI, just over £1 – for a journey of over an hour. A return from Norwich Railways Station to the University of East Anglia cost me £4.40 for a return journey of about 2 miles – it makes me spit. Spit.

Alex and I talked at length about a bunch of stuff in a desperate attempt to stay awake – sitting is a bad policy when you’ve only had like 4 hours sleep.

We arrived in the capital and headed for the Piața (market). There were several meat markets in the complex of stalls and buildings and we went into one recommended by the school principal (who had some shopping to do herself). Now the butchers is rather unlike the butchers back home, people were slinging pig and other carcasses around. It was clean and the meat was fresh, but I don’t think I’d really want to touch the banknotes that were moist with pig ‘juice’ again. Hand sanitiser to the rescue – Alex was well prepared.

Not quite the same at my local butchers, but interesting nevertheless

Our pork legs are prepared

Now the cook had given us a list of the meat she wanted – as we (i.e Alex) ordered it we started to think that perhaps we were ordering rather a large and unaffordable quantity – 45 pork chops, 2 entire pork legs, 4 kilos of diced pork and 4 kilos of minced beef. The total wasn’t shy of a hundred pounds (sterling) and we had to hurriedly go to a bureau-de-change so I could convert a few more Euros to LEI. Even then we couldn’t afford the bill and Alex had to fess up to the butcher that we would only be taking 23 pork chops. The butcher was not best pleased.

Alex preparing to talk to the butcher.

Once we’d paid and were handed the meat we were then definitely sure that the cook had over-ordered – perhaps confusing lbs with kilos. In any case it was f**cking heavy and contained only in plastic bags which meant more delightful pig juice on our hands, tshirts, shorts etc. Delightful.

Loaded all the meat onto the back of the bus and we went back to Trebujeni, not forgetting an enormous hill to carry the pretty much whole dead pig up – I promptly had a nap – and it was only 10 in the morning!

There was still a fair amount of work to be done including the grand moving of the septic tank into the hole.

Many hands make light work...

John created an enormous lever contraption to lower the septic tank into the 35 foot hole – pretty impressive!

Daring trapeze artist...

What do you do when you’re bored on a Saturday? You go to Ikea & Lakeside!

Yeah ok so its probably not right at the very top of the list for a nice evening out but at about 4 o’clock this afternoon I was struck with the desire to buy a table and chair set from Ikea.

I told Ros this and we went! Its 74 miles to Thurrock (Lakeside) which is like a giant horrible retail park with a giant shopping mall, an Ikea and a bunch of other stuff.

Off we go down the A12

A nice new bit of widened M25 - 3 years of pain, delays and tears to get there though


So we arrived at Ikea and despite the fact that I had a clear cut plan, a mission, direction and speed – it was derailed. Ros wanted to look at the showroom, I was all ready to shoot directly to the warehouse to pick up the Bollo table and chair set, but no, we went to look at the endless showroom.

This negative was turned into a positive because we walked around the showroom at a decent walking pace and there were some decent new products – such as this imperial red office chair. I reckon if I had that chair for only £80 I would probably look like I was in charge of something, something like the First Galactic Empire. Maybe.

James will see you nowAlso if we ever decide to blow a couple of grand on a new super-compact kitchen, this is the one I want. Its really compact and there’s even a washing machine and dishwasher tucked away in there. Oh and the panels at the back are magnetic so you can just stick saucepans and spatulas to wall. Just like on the Space Shuttle.

Super compact kitchen - £2300. Bargain.

Oh yeah and if I had a higher ceiling I would definitely have this lampshade – its enormous, about 2 feet across but it looks awesome.

I think this costs like £50 so its quite expensive for a paper lampshade - does look super though, really nice 60's aesthetic - just need primary coloured furniture and some platforms!

Anyway we got the table and chairs (I’m not taking pictures of them because they’re not interesting) and we headed to the retail mecca of Lakeside. Actually, Lakeside is the scummier of the regional shopping centres near me – Bluewater is much nicer but is 10 miles and a toll bridge further away.

Apparently some people spend days in the place, and it does have about 300 stores, and, randomly a diving school. I only wanted to buy a bear hat and a man bag. The damn River Island didn’t have the bag I wanted, so I went further afield to Topman/Topshop. Found a terrific bag…

Topman - £22 (or like £19 with student discount)

Whilst I was queueing to buy it, I saw a fantastic wallet – I have a decent wallet already but it doesn’t have a change compartment and that bugs me. You’ll notice a change of style on the header bar at the top of the blog, its actually a close up of the pattern on the wallet. I like it because it kinda looks like a doodle I might have done whilst I was supposed to be a lecture.

Totally wicked wallet - £10 Topman

Whilst I was in Topman I spotted some decent grey superskinny jeans that I’ve had my eye on for awhile, as Topman and Topshop are ostensibly two halves of the same shop I spied that basically the same jeans were cheaper in the womans half of the store. So I figured out my size is womens jeans (10) and got picked them up as well! Bonus.

Moto Leigh jeans - Topshop £38

Grey super-skinny jeans

Oh and the shop had a really cool sign. Enjoy it. Goodnight.

I'd be pretty pleased with something like this spelling out the word 'James' in my lounge

The Big Moldova Blog – Part 7: The Real Work Begins

So to recap.

We drove along way. We’re in Moldova, the coach full of everyone else got lost but was rescued by the Peace Corps.

Anyway – after staying up late to wait for the coach I was completely knackered I decided to have a lay in. For this I was roundly ridiculed as everyone was up at about 6 or something absurd like that. Masochists.

The task that awaited me was digging and shovelling – lots and lots of digging and shovelling. Why? Well because the drainage ditch that we’d filled with large stones earlier needed to be levelled off at a constant 1 in 40 downhill gradient.

Engineers Level

I hung around John (the architect/engineer) and tried to figure out how to use this neat looking contraption. When I finally figured out what he was doing I was quite pleased with myself.

The result of careful measurements... my beautiful pea-grit ditch

During the day Alex sidled up and asked me if I wanted to go on an adventure – I did, so she explained that I was required to meet her at 5.30am to go to Chisinau on the bus for meat. Buying meat is not usually an adventure, but I thought it would be cool to tag along as I’m really keen to see more of this amazing country than just a school, which, frankly could be anywhere.

In the evening I led a raiding party to the local shop for beer and snacks, pleased with myself for being the guy in-the-know 🙂 A little bit of status at last!

The Rise and Rise of The Man-Bag (and other stuff)

I have a problem.

Skinny jeans look great, but they’re ruined if you put anything in the pockets. Therefore I have 3 options:

  • Don’t go out
  • Keep my keys in my hand and slip only a single debit card into my pocket
  • Take Ros with me and put all my stuff in her bag

These options are not acceptable – however, help is at hand. The man-bag.

It used to be that men had wallets, which went in jackets and if you were travelling with anything more than this then you were either derranged or you were going on holiday. Now we genuinely need somewhere to put our iPads/iPhone/iPod/keys/cards/laptops/ebook readers (delete as applicable). There is now a decent and growing range of over the shoulder small satchel like bags for men to carry around ‘stuff’ in.

River Island Black Canvass Bag – £24.99

This first one is quite nice – its definately big enough for an iPad and some other stuff, and probably big enough for most small laptops – although it won’t offer any protection against knocks or drops so make sure you have some else protecting it like the neoprene cases you can buy for Macbooks.


River Island - Rust Canvass Bag - £25.00

This one is perhaps a bit more interesting as its small enough to be taken everywhere – being midway between a satchel and handbag. Big enough for an iPad and book, but unless you have a miniscule laptop you’ll need another solution. Great colour though – I have some red Converse All Stars that are the same shade of red. Of course as a man any colour coordination is entirely accidental. Entirely.

Topman – Dunlop Apple Red PVC Bag – £22

For those that prefer a retro-sports look this is a great choice – big enough for a small laptop/iPad and a couple of books – it combines a sleek look with something that doesn’t look too dissimilar to a bootbag – if your nervous about moving into the world of bags, then this would be a great choice as you could probably convince people that your off to a game.

The best hat ever - £19.99

Just as an aside – this is the best hat ever ever ever! The River Island in my town is tiny so its not available to go and stroke, but I will be ordering it online the next time I get paid.

The Big Moldova Blog – Part 6: Day Number One

Right I’m back on the Moldova blogging wagon.

Turns out that the lovely ditch needed filling with rather large and heavy stones – so we cracked on with that – oh and by the way the stones that the mayor kindly donated were both too large and too small and needed to be separated, Andy helped out and we invented a system of shaking the larger stones to the bottom thus making the entire task much easier and felt particularly pleased with our ingenuity (I think it might be a man thing, but we feel very pleased with ourselves when we solve simple caveman like practical problems) – didn’t make it any cooler though at well over 35 degrees.

Piles of sand and stones to be moved. Hurray.

When we got bored of that we went inside and tried to strip out the vile communistical (that’s not actually a word, but I like the way it sounds) flooring in the to-be community room. The ground underneath was covered in mould – that was actually quite pretty – and the flooring was extremely heavy. Like totally unreasonably heavy, Lord knows what it was made of.

By this point I appear to have made friends with Alex and Andy, which is good for bilateral relations. Either this or, in a stunningly apt allegory of reality, I’ve imprinted onto them like a baby duck (who doesn’t have an empire anymore and isn’t sure what to do). Anyway – they’re super-nice, and they’re willing to use their brains and brawn for the benefit of the project. Their translation skills saved our bacon during the first day. Not only that but they led a rescue mission to find the coach that had gotten hopelessly lost in the dark. Americans to the rescue – another allegory.

Andy and Alex on the left. Painting the community room (Amy and Micheala are on the right).

Britain in Space

Turn out that Britain used to have a proper space programme – unlike the rather sad piggybacking on the ESA that we do now. Unfortunately, our space programme was rather short lived, managing to successfully launch only one satellite, carried by a giant rocket propelled lipstick.

Prospero Satellite - launched from Woomera (a little bit of Australia where we used to test our nuclear weapons)

Now I think that the current retreat from space is really quite sad. A while ago I was thinking about the loss of Concorde – and likewise this feels like a step back. I know the arguments for withdrawing funding from space exploration, afterall, no-one seems to have much money at the moment and its probably deemed a no-brainer to divert funding into schools and hospitals.

But I think its important not to forget that exploration can be an end unto itself – the only trouble is that you can’t build a business case for it. It is by definition stepping into the unknown – but thats whats exciting and it has the potential to galvanise people, sharing a common purpose and striving to meet the same goals. Even if you don’t discover new miracles of science and technology, that common purpose is worth something, probably something that even Mastercard can’t buy.

Anyway – onto some stuff about design: Below is the logo of the government’s space agency. Why is good? Well its the Union Flag turned into a rocket – I’m not sure that anything could be cooler (except maybe if the agency had some actual rockets to launch).

Extra Extra High Converse

So I decided to increase the amount of footwear that I own and I decided to buy some knee-high converse boots (Officially called XX-Hi), I always thought these were reserved for women only, but it turns out that they come in mens sizes too. This is good news. The bad news is that my girlfriend now wants to borrow them.

A crap grainy pictures of my super-boots

I think they make me look a little bit like an emo-superman – thats the extent of the warped world that exists in my head.

They cost £50 (£45 for students) from Schuh.

If I ever had enough guts to wear them with shorts then they would look something like the below. Try not to vomit at my knobbly knees.