Friday, 18 May 2012

Pot Noodle - Design Classic

As every nutritionally-astute human being knows, there are six major food groups.

These are:

Fruit and Vegetables
Meat and Protein
Fats, Oils and Sweets
and - of course - since its introduction in 1978, the Pot Noodle.

I know they’re bad for me and I haven’t eaten one in a long time, but I’ve got a nostalgic affection for those little containers of salt and MSG, that no amount of dietary knowledge will ever supplant.

I remember vividly, the day my brother Joe brought a chicken and mushroom one home, having spent some of his paper round money on this most worthy of acquisitions. Our house in 1978 was never at the forefront of technological innovation. We were all still getting over the cultural shock of watching a colour telly and not having to go to number 14 if we wanted to use a phone.

Whilst he put the kettle on, all of us kids sat round the table and just stared at the Pot Noodle. It looked amazing. It was colourful and made of plastic and it had a foil lid. A foil lid, I tell you! When NASA launched the Space Shuttle, three years later, I was far less impressed.

Joe brought the boiled kettle over and peeled the lid. We fought for a better view of what was inside. It was basically a ball of frozen tapeworms with a light dusting of snuff. But what was that lying on top? Joe removed it and held it up for our adoration. I asked in wonder,

“What’s a sat-shit, Joe?”

“It’s sash-shay, you dickhead.”

New ‘continental words’ as well! Was there anything the Pot Noodle couldn’t do?

Then he poured the water in and an amazing transformation took place. It bubbled and frothed and the tapeworms melted. The snuff became a sauce and the sat-shit was distributed for flavour. It was done! But what was this? Joe was closing the lid.

“You have to leave it to rest for two minutes.”

It was the longest 120 seconds of my life. The lid was shut, so we couldn’t see what was going on, but the chemical smells sneaking through the gaps were tantalising and exotic.

Eventually the clock ticked round and the meal was prepared. A pot that was full of noodles. What more from life could anyone want? Joe, being the owner and a tight bastard, didn’t even let us have a mouthful, just a piece of noodle, half a matchstick in length. It was enough for me to boast about it in school the next day, though! This was our teacher asking,

“Who wants to hear Charlie’s Pot Noodle story again?”

So, despite there probably being more nutrition to be gained from eating the foil, I’ve retained a fondness for the ‘Papa November’ (as it was referred to by British soldiers).

When I was in fifth year, one of my mates brought one along to a football match we were playing in. He was smart enough to bring a flask of boiling water with him, but not smart enough to remember not to throw his bag against a wall. With the prime catalyst missing in order for the magic to happen, his post-match snack seemed done for. It was only with mild horror that we watched him fill it up with warm water from the showers instead and I was still up for a gnaw on the semi-solid, savoury rounders ball that was produced.

Somewhere in the mid-nineties, when I realised that food was supposed to supply things other than salt and instant gratification, I stopped eating them. For the purposes of this blog, I had a little look at what’s gone on in subsequent years, in the world of the Pot Noodle.

Someone in their marketing department - in order to combat the Super Noodle - came up with what I think is the most brilliantly named product currently available, the ‘Wot? Not in a Pot Noodle’.

Our friend Clare was round the other night and told of a mysterious dessert version, whose star shone but briefly. Another pal, Tim subsequently hunted around the internet and unearthed the ‘Pot Sweet’. I never had one, which is probably a good thing, as I imagine it would still be stuck to my ribs now.
It’s the way of the world, though, that things that were once fashionable, can often come full circle and enter our lives again, sometimes ironically, or sometimes because we’re sick of food that’s good for us. This limited edition beauty is the ‘poulet et champignon’ flavour that was sold by Harrods for £30 in 2008.

So, as soon as I finish this blog, I’m going to throw all my pad thai in the bin and get myself a chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle, with a thick-sliced shitty white loaf. Then I’m going to eat it, making four or five butties, with a glass of undiluted Kia-Ora to accompany it.

What harm can it do?

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Don't turn right

Around Christmas time last year, I decided to modify a bit of my behaviour that I wasn’t happy with.

It wasn’t about my glee in relating 70s, schoolkid anecdotes to my children, with all the wonderful elements of Health and Safety removed.

“And do you know, kids, in those days we didn’t even have to wear hi-viz vests when we were in the playground after school.”

“Really dad?”

“It’s all true, in fact at my secondary school, when we were raising money for St Joseph’s Penny, the teachers used to allow us to box at lunchtime. I think that Mr Fedoruk, the Games teacher, used to run a book on the fights, resulting in one of the Maths teachers getting heavily into debt.”

“Wow, I wish we went to your school.”

“Yes, it was great. It was a place where people who obtained more than a couple of O Levels, were seen as professors.”

I love horrifying and wowing the kids in equal measure, with embellished tales of my childhood, so it wasn’t this that needed some thought.

It was about driving. I don’t get the classic road rage that Channel 4 like to make documentaries about.

I’ve been in a car with someone who has, so I know I’m not in that league. It was a Geordie mate of mine and we were travelling up the M6. We were in the left hand lane and as we passed Junction 38, a little old lady came tootling down the slip lane, ready to join the motorway and head for Penrith. The only thing was, she didn’t have her indicator on, so my mate wouldn’t move over and kept pace in his car. As the old lady got closer and closer to me, it became very clear that she was coming straight on. I relayed this urgently to the driver and he replied,

"How man, she’s not fuckin’ indercayatin’, so she can fuck off.”

He wasn’t screaming his head off, but that’s a level of intolerance I know I’ll never reach. He’d have been happy for us all to have a nice big crash, because of a ‘tech-ner-fuckin-cality.’

What I have is more of an urban impatience. If you’re driving round a city, then you need to be quick off the mark, or you can spend your life at junctions or traffic lights.

Over the years, I’ve found myself doing a little commentary as I go along and viewed objectively it’s a bit embarrassing. ‘C’mon mate’, ‘Are you ever going to go?’ ‘It’s on green! it’s on green!’ That sort of thing.

I was never shouting it, but that constant irritation has a corrosive effect on your stress levels. It serves no purpose to be annoyed. It doesn’t get you there any quicker. The person in the other car can’t hear you, so whatever you’re saying is going to have absolutely no impact on what they’re doing. Most importantly, if you’ve got anyone in the car with you, you look like a right dick.

So I decided at Christmas that I was going to stop doing it. I went cold turkey as well. No gradual reduction in the comments or volume. I went from being mildly irked by every perceived bit of ignorant or inconsiderate driving, to not giving a toss.

It’s absolutely great. You should try it, even just for a morning or a day. You’re mental state will be a lot better for it.

I was always happy to let people through on a busy road, where there’s only room for one car, but sometimes I’d make a bit of a snap judgement if they were driving a bit aggressively. Not any more. Happy to wait, on you go, mate, you’re obviously in more of a rush than me. It bloody works, you know. I’ve tried to keep it up and am achieving good levels of success. I occasionally backslide, but note it and spend the following few minutes being extra nice.

My greatest moment was at one of those junctions, where you get a bellend who races up on the outside in the right-turn-only lane and then goes straight over, bypassing the huge queue of highway-code followers in the left hand lane. A few months ago, if I found myself at the front of one of the left hand lane when this happened, I’d have consciously tried to beat him across the junction to annoy him. Last week, when this happened, I just slowed down and let him nip in. Amazingly, it felt really good. Course he’s a knob, but why should I be bothered.

The only nut that I’ve failed to crack, is a particular little junction in Chorlton. It’s where Kensington Road joins Manchester Road. If you’re daft enough to try and turn right here, you’re going to be there for a long, long time. Most people who live in the area will take a big detour, rather than attempt the madness of a right turn there. If you get stuck behind someone who is, you may as well get your butties out.

The couple of times it’s happened to me since Christmas, a quick, ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake!’ escapes before I remember my new ethos. I will do it though. By Christmas, I hope, if I find myself in this position to sit there with a smile like a Jehova’s Witness and say, ‘Good luck, mate. Hope you don’t have to wait too long.”