Saturday, March 31, 2012

The strength of vulnerability, the courage to be vulnerable

The is another vid I have up here so I know where to find it:

Plus the plea for some peace and quiet:

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Leadership lessons from a dancing guy

I can't take credit for it, it is Derek Sivers, but if I post it here, I'll know where to find it when I need it.

It's been around for a few years now, but I did get a tear of inspiration when I saw it.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whiteboard: Simple acronym decipher

Yes. "Fast Moving Consumer Goods" is the English way of saying "Consumer Packaged Goods"

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

If not now, then when?

I was just off pottering around my father in law's gardens, on his behalf. I'm delighted that he's over in India - his second oldest daughter (and her family) are there for some work and it made sense for Luigi and Dora to go there too.

And thank goodness that they went. The guy is over seventy, double knee reconstruction and multiple heart bypass. If not now, when? I hope he gets the burn and spends his every last opportunity to sip the nectar of life.

And it's a lesson I can take too. Yeh got the wolves at the door, but Miss 11yo is due for a trip up to Cairns to see Pops. Mr 8yo is overdue for a "tagalong" trip when I teach in Singapore, the older two have had Dad to themselves that way, at least once.

If not now, when?

So yes, I might be spending a little money I hadn't planned to.

My older friends tell me the financial pain doesn't last forever but the opportunities for magic moments with the kids disappear in an instant. I might listen to them.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

eBay helped me

Unfortunately I can't get out to the golf course this weekend. A pile of marking to do means I'm passing up two opportunities. But food on the table is nice to have, too. But when I eventually get to a comp game up at Mount Barker, I'll be able to use these.

Because at $2 each instead of the $6 in a pro shop I can afford good balls.

Sorry, golf retailers.

I hope I don't smack these into the water on the second hole too much though. As I often do.

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Avoid taking a path that makes everything look looks a nail

It looks like it was Abraham Maslow who went on record saying:

if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

How apt given the way his (very clever at the time) hierarchy of needs has been so readily accepted and used as the foremost motivation theory by many, many people.

Note to self: read more on this. I get a sense that the term "Maslow's hammer" and some of his later writing might show a sense of embarrassment.

I won't go into my own examples yet, but I see examples of "method myopia" everywhere, but especially in academia.

Only human I suppose. But it is why the very best of the academics work across dozens of methods.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

A buddy who could say "It's not me, it's you"...

I have the honour of regularly meeting with a bunch of guys who keep me grounded. Yes, this particular group is a bunch of guys - one day I'll talk about the great women I know too, people such Di Lee, Michelle Prak, Anita Gayen, Belinda Harris, Liz Hemphill.

But for now, the guys I see about once a week. All over sixty, and it helps remind me of the way the day-to-day skirmishes really don't count for that much.

But one of these guys is a senior project manager in a contractor to state government. He manages multi-million dollar projects and in his day earned a reputation as a head kicker - did huge battle with the unions.

But the guy seems to have always been human. As I told him about a fight I was having with Mr 14yo, his words went like this:
"yeh I had that once with a teacher who was in a fight with my daughter. The teacher called me, saying how it went and my answer was 'you've gotta remember who the adult is here. This kid's doped to the eyeballs on raging teen hormones and school soap opera, and you're the adult. As the adult how are you managing it? - because just tell me and I'll support you'"

And the guy then calmly, firmly debriefed his daughter - too - that afternoon.

So that's the type of guy were dealing with. And in the highly political world of (let's say) state government that type of talk might get you in trouble, especially with bosses. I hear he has a couple who don't like him at all.

So, recently I was delighted to hear that there can be returns to being the right type of person. I heard two stories.

Some meeting that brought together all the major players in his huge industry gave my buddy what he calls a huge ego stroke. While his bosses were there, preening, the really important players kept making a beeline to him, saying how "we must catch up" and clearly showing him great respect and friendship. He noted that his bosses were saying "what's so special about that prick?" - and that probably says more about them that it did about him. Even in recounting the story, this guy was humble and self aware.

360 degree assessment
But a great "win for the good guys" came from the performance assessment that not only took in his two bosses, but a number of peers and a number of subordinates. So in all, fourteen people were singing my buddy's praises and two people were "shitcanning" him. Bear in mind that other elements of his performance are all fine, he brings all his projects in - on time or better and on budget or better.

So in my buddy's performance review debrief (with the external psych) he knew who his detractors were. And in a delicious story, the HR consultant's report noted a management problem in the section and they considered it lay with the two bosses. Strangely they would be the ones thinking of my buddy as incompetent and unethical and - clearly - telling anyone who would listen.

So for me, a big message is that the day to day skirmishes count for nothing and that history often writes a different story to your current enemy of the day. History is written by the victors, but only in the short term.

There is sometimes a fair argument that 'hey, it's not me, it's you' and we can just see how history sees this one.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Positioning: Trade off a downside

These pineapples are tiny

And then I thought about the talk on positioning I'll be doing in Brands today. And I remember the Woolworths where the farmers are talking about how sweet their pineapples are.

But then of course, Woolies are playing the bigger game. Their positioning themselves - in a whole bunch of different ways - with fresh fruit being only one of them.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Content challenge: sources of brand equity for "On the Run"

So I've been thinking about brand equity. It's part of what I want to work through with our students. Often brand equity turns up as a number on a company balance sheet somehow. For instance, people are quoting that the Coke brand is worth about $60bn. When we think of it at customer level it's referred to as

"The differential effect that brand knowledge has on consumer response to marketing efforts related to the brand" Keller 1993

If balance sheet equity is made up of operational assets such as real estate, plant & equipment, finished goods etc, then the assets that constitute brand equity sit out there, in the market, as consumer knowledge


So when I think about the consumer based brand equity for the "On the Run" brand I think of the theoretical list of things that Keller says contributes to brand equity.

 "On the Run" is a retailing brand that's been around for maybe ten or so years - not sure. The first co-branding I remember was with BP - so it was originally "BP On the Run" in my mind.

Anyhoo, in capitalising on gauranteed floor traffic from fuel retail forecourts, "On the Run" entered the "Convenience groceries" category as a slickly branded, highly visible player. Fairly early in the piece, then, "BP On the Run" achieved the first of the two Brand Awareness components of Brand Equity.


Yeh baby. By co-branding with BP, who were already strong inservice station convenience purchase, and because of existing high visibility outdoor advertising, people pretty quickly came to recognise "on the run" as a place where you might get any number of a range of convenience items. I've recently noticed the "On the Run" tag applied to other fuel suppliers - this (was it "Mobil") across from the "Maid and Magpie" now sports the logo.

So, also due to their extensive co-branding efforts (Subway, Brumby's, C coffee, Smokemart) when a consumer is thinking of a quick way to get hold of Subway Sandwiches, Bakery items, Coffee or Cigarettes, the co brand category cue combines with the "On the Run, We NEVER Close" brand promise to give high recall, both "top of mind" and subsequent.

Left out of many branding discussions is the broad based measure of Brand Salience, which largely relates to the number of buying triggers that are directly associated with the brand compared to competitors. I'll talk about salience later this semester.

Keller's next point is one about associations.

Through a fair amount of advertising (outdoor, instore and some TV) for the parent brand as well as the key brand, "On the Run" has (I argue) fairly strong associations with availability (we never close), speed of service ("On the Run") plus all of the category promises of the co-brands (Sandwiches, Bakery, Cigarettes)

These things are all pretty positive things, and at least before you get to see whether they can deliver or not, they make for a pretty good brand promise.

That's a tough one. But the overall brand promise could be argued as unique. Here's my angle. In an earlier job down near West Terrace I would need to go into the office and do a little work on a weekend. I had to take my 4 and 6 year old kids with me. I would buy them off by promising id take them to "The everything shop". It worked. Bringing a set of strong brands onto your one stop is - possibly - a form of uniqueness.

To be honest, the proponents of the "Brand Salience" argument aren't too enamoured with the idea of uniqueness. Often many brands compete as lookalikes. I know that often the Coles/Shell joint venture or the Woolworths plus petrol (at least Hackney) are pretty "everything shops", but perhaps the "On the Run" stable is a little unique.

Peregrine Corporation have build a brand with high brand equity and I don't see them going backwards. Good on them.

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Sincerity: A most important ingredient

This is a chance for me to also mention my second passion - growing plants.

But a blog post last night for Seth Godin helped remind me of the power of actually caring for the people you work with, or sincerely engaging.

My father in law has a birthday today. What do you give a guy who has just about everything? Perhaps something that engages with who he is, and his history?

This was once a beautiful big old fig tree, in the back of what was Luigi's house, my wife's childhood home. My best memory of this tree was seeing Luigi's (late) sister at the age of 70, atop a ladder in the middle of summer hunting down the nicest fig on the tree.

But life goes on. Fiorina died years ago (sadly), Luigi redeveloped the back, and the fig has made way for a new carpark. But I managed to get some cuttings, strike them and repot one to give to him tonight for his birthday.

Perhaps if I was more than simply gestures, I would be picking up a shovel and doing some of the real work in the place but I think the time for that is fast approaching anyway. And I'll just settle, at the moment, for putting food on my family's table.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Something I respect: Jumping into the trench with your people

It's inspirational, and in direct disagreement with my own post about how the skydiving instructor has to manage their own jump too.

every now and then you find a team member who will just say "fuck it, I'm going in". Like Ben Roberts-Smith in the action that won his Victoria Cross:

As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.

And that's the truth of it. Most potential VC winners get dead before they escape the action to receive the decoration. But when your mates are pinned down and the solution is clear, perhaps you don't choose the moment, it chooses you.

But also, I see a lot of people decide to step back, and live to fight another day. Even though they know what the honourable course is.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

MBA whiteboard on consumer behaviour

Criteria for effective segmentation:

Two approaches to consumer behaviour

Consumer decision process:

The "data" involved:

And Apple's long tail:

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

In lieu of writing, a little analysis

Well then. This little paper I'm working on, using double jeopardy lines to illustrate market dynamics, has just stalled a little. I've got too busy thinking about how important each of the parameters are, what they mean ya ya. Really navel gazing

So in direct contravention of what the "turbo charge your writing" advisors have suggested I have done some "not writing" activity. I picked up some data from a paper a couple of years ago and estimated the Dirichlet parameters for it.

I think it might have unblocked me though. I might get Matlab to draw the theoretical DJ line for this case and it might make a neat story. Who knows. Writing is a a challenge.

To my students: Content challenge for this week

This week your challenge - should you choose to accept it - is to write a blog post about brand equity. In its very basic sense it's really to pick a brand and talk through its sources of brand equity. Read Keller's Chapter 2 (Reading 1) to help but really its Brand Awareness (Recall, Recognition) and Brand Image (Strength, Favourability and Uniqueness of Associations).

But for you to make it an interesting blog post you can talk about BE in almost any way. Your audience will be pretty new to this stuff and you'll look clever - I promise. So you can talk about how BE is a source of future revenue thanks to market based assets, the benefits of BE, etc.

Remember the objective here is to BE INTERESTING, so however you choose to do it is up to you.

Chess: Stages of the game

I've recently taken an interest in chess. The game that you can learn the rules in an hour but take a lifetime to become a little good at. A game which, like squash, converts minor differences in player ability to huge wins either way.

Often, chess has served as a metaphor for me. Certain sales jobs have been like "shifting emotions - mine and others - around like pieces on a chess board". Some business negotiations have been "like playing chess with a six year old".

Well my latest metaphor is one of game stages and a person's life. I'll have a go at working through it.

First, a quick search shows that this is not a new idea. Here's a neat little wrap:
  • There are consequences for your actions or in-actions.
  • You are responsible. Responsibility is learned.
  • Everything in life is your responsibility.
  • Everything is caused by either your actions or in-actions.

Gain Control and Be In Control
Life Lessons from Chess — David Cordover,

Chess has distinct game stages. I never got past the first when I learnt at my grandfather's knee. But these stages are known as the opening, the middlegame and the endgame. As I work through my life, I can see distinct parallels to how a person might live theirs.

The Opening
OK so the game has to get started. Apparently it used to be about gaining the better position if you're white, and redressing the imbalance if you're black. Heres the opening I'm used to seeing and using, apparently it's called the Ruy Lopez.

But a little reading tells me that recently people have come to see the opening more as a way "create dynamic imbalances between the two sides, which will determine the character of the middlegame and the strategic plans chosen by both sides."

So, in life we go through school and get our education, find our life partner and build a family (if that's the plan), start a career, build networks. Perhaps we are working to set a position for us to run through to later stages of the game.

The Middle Game
It gets funky here, the board blocks up complex networks of attack and defence make it impossible to move without losing a piece.

The objective here is to set the board up so that your king is well defended but also that you are in a position to attack. But the overarching objective is to make sure that when you lose a piece, you trade it for a piece of higher value.

So that's where the metaphor sits with me. Before I came to thinking hard about chess, I resisted the idea that I was going to lose pieces. But it's a natural part of the game and going into it thinking you won't lose a piece - naive.

This looks scary to me. I have a lot to learn in chess. The board is empty, you're often relying on minor pieces such as pawns and even employing your king as an attacking piece.

In life I often see that as the "old man in a hurry" syndrome. A person is at a stage of their life where they want to "make it count for something". It appears in many ways, after <whatever shock> s/he threw him/herself into <whatever obsession - often work>.

It may even be where many of the work related problems arise. I know people who are still playing middle game in their own lives at seventy. They have a solid enough marriage, strong family, friends they can count on, work that is interesting and can pay some bills, some sport, travel, interest in arts. These people have many pieces on their board. They don't need to make any single activity a roaring success.

And they may not sit well alongside those who've - perhaps - put all their measure of success on their work. Maybe. I don't know, just musing.

Stay in the middle game as long as possible
So in reflection, perhaps the important thing is to stay in the middlegame as long as possible. Perhaps in life - unlike chess - it is possible to keep the pieces; family, friends, health, some sort of work.

Perhaps in the game of life if you're playing endgame and desperately trying to make it count for something - perhaps you're fighting a losing position.

A buddy of mine infuriates his bosses when they ask him the superficially engaging "so where do you see yourself in five years?" question. When he responds with his standard "happy, healthy, still married to my wife" they tend to roll their eyes. But perhaps he's got it right. I'm sure it serves certain managers well to have all their employees in endgame mode but I expect it's healthier for a person to keep their life rich, and balanced.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blog: Life of Ryan

Cool. Striking design and very cool wordplay. Nice work!

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"Invisible Children" are working social media well

I stand true to all my earlier caveats regarding the Kony2012 but a quick look at the website of "Invisible Children" indicates to me that they are engaging well with the criticism.

Really quite a good use of social media as I see it. I'll still need to think about it some more.

#workwed Will it Blend?: Golf Balls

My golf buddies cancelled for this afternoon, giving me a valuable opportunity to do some academic writing, a little marking, family sports (Mia at Basketball) and even a game of volleyball for me.

But the academic writing had me doing a little research on the blurring of content and advertising, taking me to the blendtec youtube channel. And I found out that golf balls do blend:

This guy collects over 5 million views of these videos in a seamless blurring of content and advertising. Well played, sir.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A radio spot on 3AW

I did this on Sunday morning. I cringe when I listen to it, I'm too many umms and ahhs early and then I'm not concise later on. Call it a work in progress. I will get better at radio work.

In fact I will probably get some training on it. I just laid some random photos behind it because youtube needs video too.

Here's what the radio show says it is:

"Forget the strong cup of coffee, if you need a morning wake up call, Darren James and his contributors Nick McCallum and John Michael Howson will get you up and going. Arrogant and argumentative."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prakky: Guest session at the University of #Adelaide tomorrow

Do yourself a favour. Michelle Prak is one of Adelaide's leading Social Media consultants and a strong personal brand.

Michelle will do the first hour with us tomorrow morning at 10am. So do yourself a favour and get along. It's in Napier G03. Non class members who wish to "audit" the lecture are welcome too.

Michelle's brief is to help you with the building of a personal brand using social media. If you want to get the ball rolling in taking a foothold in #adelaide, start here!


To my students: content challeng has a prize this week

Just quietly - I'll be awarding a prize (judges choice is final) for this week's content challenge.

So, to win it, you've gotta be in it. Entries close midnight tonight (Monday).

How do you enter? Write your blog entry about the three types of brand marks and communicate it via some outreach medium that I am likely to see.

Essentially - write a blog and communicate it outwards on Twitter, with a mention of @cullenofadelaid or #brands3 or both. The prize you might win is only minor, but I like giving stuff away.

So get onto the #brands3 content challenge.

Postgrad students (#BrandsM) have the same deal but it closes just before next Monday's class.


What is normal? Trading hours, fairness and heterogeneity

Some posters are getting around the Napier building, saying "normal is a distribution". Hold that thought, but keep in mind the idea of heterogeneity - the fact that people vary. And a frequency tabulation tends to take the shape below (especially if you average it out many times over).

Yep so now we talk about trading hours on today's public holiday.

Familiar arguments.

Big retailers want it, economies of scale
Small retailers are divided, they're individual small businesses
Shoppers are happy enough to have the trading hours, even if they don't use them
Rundle Mall wants it, they see it as important to revitalizing the city
Unions have gone along with it, but want their members to be paid well for it
Civic groups consider it a threat to quality of (in particular family) life

And there is the unfairness. Some people have to work, others get to be the relaxers.

So I think about heterogeneity. The fact that everyone is different. That "normal" is a distribution. Perhaps it would be fairer if it was evened out. Perhaps everybody should work the same hours, the same times, earn the same money etc

Aside from the practical problems of making this happen, my experience of teaching has given me an insight to the fact that - really - people don't want across the board equality.

When I do a thought experiment with my classes I ask them "what if everybody gets a 75% distinction?". It would save me my most unpleasant task - judging others.

Initially the class sounds interested. "wow, I get a distinction. Cool". But very quickly (less than a minute) there are murmurs of discontent. I kill the thought experiment then.

The people on the right side of that normal curve - they tend to like heterogeneity. They like the idea that if they relinquish the odd night out, do a little more research, listen to the lectures a few more times, come to the special sessions; if they put in the extra yards they will have it recognised.

So I don't have an answer to the shopping hours question. Looking beyond the obvious often puts us there.

But inequality is one of the factors that cause some people to work harder than others. That said, the "slosh factor" makes it amazingly unfair - in the short term - sometimes. I felt the burn many years ago on a New Years Even at 7pm when all my friends and family were readying for their celebrations as I was readying for work.

That night I was the one making sure the "Olympic flame" association enjoyed their 400 person function. OK, so I got some education and made some life choose that means I haven't had to work NYE for 20 years now - but the future is an uncertain place. Slosh factor.

So it tends to be that everyone wants equality, with those who are better off than them. And the lawmakers need to walk the line between allowing for productive inequality and trashing family values. Sounds like a Gordian knot.

I do like the way the French treat their Sundays as sacred, see my post "le Dimanche is different".

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Downsides of social media?

Bottom feeding botspammers. A student of mine in #brandsm asked me about the downsides of doing social media.

One of them is getting a mention to find out its just some turd trying to fluff up someone else's follower count, presumably for a fee.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Dick Smith is another Strong Personal Brand

It depends on who you talk to but this guy is well known for many reasons. He started with this:
However if you listen to ABC's Macca on Sundays, Dick is very well known, as a personal brand. He's built on values such as hard work, Australianism etc. Part of the picture is now his "Australian Foods" push:
But there's a lot more to him than that. I'd probably pick this guy if I was doing an analysis of a personal brand as an assignment. He flew around the world in a helicopter, headed up the Australian Civil Aviation Authority in the 90s, and a whole bunch of things.


There's something very nice about one:

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Content challenge: The nature of a brand

OK then. I put what I called a "content challenge" to my students in branding. It revolved around discussing the nature of a brand according to chapter 1 of the Uncles text we are using. Here's my effort. I thought I'd stay in the sauces and chutneys area - I was cruising around DJs and I'd made some chutney this morning.

Price marks: essentially everyone in the "chutneys" business is working with similar raw materials at similar prices - sugar, fruit, spices, labour, packaging. The wall full of chutneys and sauces represents a whole bunch of different producers trying to make themselves a little special and get a little more than the economic price.

"Make it nice, try to get a better price"

I put a caveat on Beerenberg up the top there, who are probably not doing a bad job of doing the second of these.

Trust marks: I know we've changed product categories a little here, but the principle is the same. So we have a brand called "Fountain" which does a whole heap of different sauces with consistent label styles and bottle designs, in the hope that the consumer takes this as a sign that "if it's made by Fountain, we can expect x, y and z". In that vein, then Beerenberg farms are probably doing a great job of it. More power to them.

An old customer buddy (ex-production guy from Chapmans Matt Noske) is still working there. I hope he lets me call him a buddy.

Lovemarks: OK then. If I have to stretch myself into this territory, perhaps Tabasco might be a lovemark. Kevin Roberts will do the whole talk about lovemarks if you let him. But the idea is that lovemarks transcend brands. It's more than all those things like brand awareness, brand image etc - it's about deep emotional commitment to the brand.

Sure, I love my Tabasco, as much as you can love a condiment. mmm.

I love my Barina. As much as I can love a car - I suppose.

I love my apple products, but they're all great products. And I trust that the next one I get will probably be pretty good.

What do you think? Is there value in thinking of brands as Lovemarks?

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Reprise the "King's Cottage" label for home use

Even if just for fun. A long-ish story. Back in about 1991 my Italian mother-in-law gave me a jar of tomatoes she'd dried in the sun, and had put them into oil with some herbs.

After reluctantly accepting them, I tried them on a hungry night and was blown away. In 1991 "dried tomatoes" were way less known than now.

I saw an opportunity, built some labels, made some and sold them.

It's where I learnt the challenge of scaling. To be honest, the selling was the easy bit. Domenic Mercuri - then of Walkerville Fine Foods, now of Siena - agreed to carry them to retailers and the orders flowed.

The trick was getting the volume going. Manual cutting, drying, packing etc would just not do it. Many thanks to mother in law Dora, Cousin Nadia and a few others. Nice lesson. Cheap.

It also showed me that as you try to get volumes up, there's a pressure on quality. Add to that I learnt first hand about the dangers of the food industry as I was selling plastic to Garibaldi Smallgoods when they had their food safety problems.

Anyhoo, this morning I made some chutney and thought "why not" yeh lame but I'm a lame old dad anyway.

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