The most expensive toilet rolls in the world and faulty wooden spoons
05 NOVEMBER 2021
I was having a discussion, by text unusually, about work, with a friend the other day and he said for him that it was getting a bit like Ground Hog Day, This I had to look up because I wasn't really aware of the American animal of that name, nor had I seen the Bill Murray film either. If, like me you're still none the wiser, then let me enlighten you. Ground hog day means "a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way" ...a repeating pattern in short. In case you're interested, I'm quite suspicious of repeating patterns, they're often unconscious and often counterproductive and might be considered to be a bad thing. The circumstances in my friends case were a touch more uncertain for him and he was evidentially finding it made his life stressful, unsatisfactory, irritating and perhaps a little unsafe? It put me in mind of how Simon Sinek defines stress. He says "Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, Working hard for something we love, is called passion."
It's a shame that sayings, however good they are, rarely fit the bill exactly, because my friend does care very much about his role and the company he works for, but something is tipping the balance away from just loving the job. And it's at times like these that we need to have a leader to whom we can go and pour out our hearts without fear of retribution or retaliation. This at present is what my chum doesn't have, and it puts me in mind of another favourite Sinek saying "Fulfilment at work should be a right, not a privilege To wake up feeling inspired to go to work, to feel safe when were there, and to return home with a sense that we've contributed to something larger than ourselves" he says, should be a God given right. For some of us this is undoubtedly true, for many it isn't.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, I was having a very pleasant pint with a good chum of mine Simon Walter (a brilliant architect incidentally, and no he didn't pay me for this plug, and I'm sure that he'd be embarrassed by me saying this) early Monday evening in the Prince of Wales Feathers. I don't now recall how we got onto the subject, but I found myself recalling some of the feedback I've received on various things I've written in the last few years, the piece on Introvert Leadership, being an example that I mentioned in last week's email. This gave me great pleasure, because it seemed to have inspired someone (Diana in this case) to pass the article onto someone else who she thought would find it useful. What a compliment! And I was reminded as we spoke of just how important the subject of good leadership is to me. So I suppose these three paragraphs are really quite self-indulgent, but my excuse is that it (leadership) affects all of us, either as leaders or being led, for most of us it's probably both (parenting I count as our most important leadership role). So if you agree with me that this topic is not talked about enough, then by writing about it I'm trying, at least, to keep it in our consciousness and hopefully will provoke further discussion.
The most expensive toilet rolls in the world
So after the rarefied heights of great leadership, let me bring you down to earth with a thump. I'd like to tell you about some new lines that we've just had in, but before I do so, let me remind you about something you may have bought from us before, namely loo rolls. Now if you haven't bought those from us before and weren't aware we sold them you might think that this was a typo. Think again. For some years now we have been selling the most expensive loo rolls, probably in the history of mankind, because these are £4.50, no not for a pack of 18, or a pack of 12, or even a pack of 6. No these are £4.50 each. And they sell like stink (weak pun intended). "Why are you selling loo rolls" you may ask. "Why do we sell Loo Brush Holders" I might counter? Well there's an undeniable connection with food isn't there? But the more entertaining answer is because it brings a smile to my face, and sometimes allows me to indulge in school boy humour, which being an "adult", I'm not supposed to do anymore. But what really sets our loo rolls apart is that they are decorated...yes they are printed! When did you last use such a product that has for instance "Santa sitting on a loo" or a" line of Reindeer queuing up for the loo", standing there with their legs crossed, looking uncomfortable (quite educational these loo rolls, as I didn't know that Reindeer had their own toilets), there's another that says "Merry Christmas" and so the excitement goes on and on. So why are they are so expensive? Well each sheet has been lovingly printed sheet by sheet by Santa's little helpers or so I'm told, so maybe in reality these rolls are actually very good value. This story is beginning to sound a little tall maybe and rather puts in mind of my chum Nick and his Vietnamese Bees. If this means nothing to you don't worry it's a long story. Anyway £4.50 for hours of amusement in your loo, just has to be a different sort of Christmas present doesn't it
Now I'll take you back to the mid 70's, when I was just a nipper, and Mum and Dad had been running the shop for some years. One of the agents* who came to see them was a chap called Patrick Gardner, who was obviously going places because amongst other things he drove a Peugeot 504, super smooth and pretty fast for its time and which I remember envying. I know I shouldn't judge a person's success by the car they drive or the type of car they choose (X5 drivers apart), but I was young and impressionable. Anyway, Patrick was, indeed still is, a charming fellow (now in his 80's and still working) who worked for some unlikely sounding companies one of which gloried in the name "Ubido". They were one of the first to sell those spherical paper lamp shades that became all the rage in the 70's and 80's . Anyway he obviously got bored selling other people products eventually and with a partner who's name I forget now but must have started with a T, and they set up a company called T&G Woodware, which they've now abbreviated to just T&G. as their product offering is now rather wider than just woodware. We dealt with them for many years but as time went on there was more and more competition and eventually we drifted apart.
I am pleased to say we've drifted back again and here's a sample of what we've taken on.
In no particular order there are a pair of Beech Wood Toast Tongs complete with magnet for hang on the side of your Dualit or Smeg Toaster. £3.99's worth of sheer usefulness. And if you don't have a Dualit or a Smeg Toaster we can help there as well.
Salt and Pepper Stand
Then there's a Salt and Pepper mill stand on Acacia Wood that believe it or not you can stand your mills in the avoid them making a mess. Wouldn't get much use in our household, but that probably says something pretty horrible about us, because apparently they sell masses of them. £5.99 worth of tidiness.
Faulty Wooden Spoon
Next is an interesting item. Sometimes known as a risotto spoon, (which it isn't really, because of its hole in the bowl), Jeanne reliably informs me that it's good for risotto because when stirring such a concoction it can be easy for the contents to spill over. So the reduced resistance of the food going through the spoon reduces the likelihood of spillage. So that was Jeanne's take on it. When I asked Em she looked a bit perplexed to begin with as what a holy spoon might be efficacious for...sorry about the English. Then a bright look flitted across her face when she agreed with Jeannes take and also suggested that for folding cake mixture it might also be most appropriate. I think I'd add that for general stirring there might be quite a number of occasions where the hole could be useful in reducing resistance and displacement. So there you have it, a bit like "Call My Bluff" it's a risotto spoon, a cake folding spoon or a general purpose mixing spoon! £1.45 worth of stirring fun.
Hevea Wood Knife block
Next we have a very substantial knife block made of Hevea Wood (this is a stainable fast growing tropical hard wood) that T&G describe as a 12 slot, or in other words takes 12 knives. Well, in a rather nice underselling way what they omit to say is that on top of that they also have a hole (as opposed to a slot) for either scissors or a steel and then there's a very wide slot at the back for a cleaver or Chinese chopping knife. I'll confess that I don't like Hevea, but it's ecological and I'm once again in a bit of a minority because so many people love it. £42.99 worth of tidy, safe knives.
Well I was going to continue but I've just had a call from our solicitors to say we have completed on our new warehouse, which is very exciting but also means that we need to get moved in there in short order. So I'm now going to have to pack up my bags and go and help Andi and Paul and any other poor soul we can lay our hands on, to move a ton of Le Creuset (quite literally) and few hundred weight of Riedel glasses.
So, with unseemly haste, I'll say cheerio for now and wish you a pleasant and peaceful weekend.
Andrew Bluett-Duncan Director
*an agent is someone who, unlike a rep, typically works for a number of companies and are self-employed.