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Friday 27 May 2011

Throat Singing?

Having a frog in your throat presumably means that you're good at French, or good at catching flies maybe?  I'm not sure. Anyway - I don't think anyone ever croaked from it.

I only mention this because of what happened yesterday. I mean - how would you react if you clearly heard Charles Aznavour being brutally strangled  - and it was all happening in someone else's backpack?

The shapely blond  teenager sitting next to me on the bus quickly admitted to the crime. "That's my ringtone" he owned up sheepishly.

Well, I'd hardly even had time to mentally digest our favourite french crooner's lucky escape, when an eerie voice coming out of my own left trouser pocket dragged me into the next phase of this bizarre saga.

"Tuvan Throat Singing" I heard the voice cry out from my trouser pocket - inappropriately clearly. You'd at least have expected it to be a two-tone froglike gravelly grunt. But - putting aside the tonal quality - what in blazes was going on??

I took out my mobile which also happened to be in the same trouser pocket.  And there it was on the screen: the answer was quite simple really. The red Record button said it all. I'd inadvertently opened up an App that automatically records and then sorts music into appropriate genres,  and it had decided that a strangled Aznavour best fits into the Tuvan Throat Singing genre. It even gave me a sample video so that I could judge for myself.

That gave me an idea.  Could the App also sort out background sounds into musical genres - I wondered?

I started with the Hairdressers up London St.

First I recorded a couple of minutes of general chatter and ambient noise before asking the App to put it into the right category.

Well well. Barbershop - it declared confidently. Made sense I suppose.

Next came the piano shop. Honky Tonk according to my trusty AppThe Crown went into Scrumpy & Western; the sweet shop was Acid Rock; the Pet Shop got Jitterbug; the charity shop went into Ragtime; and the Catholic Church was categorised as New Age Soul.  

But - where would it put the Mustard Seed?  I waited as it processed.  It was thinking. Glam Punk perhaps? Or Hip Hop? Fandango would be fun. I was just hoping it wouldn't be Doom Metal ... 

Nope - there it was.  Rhapsody .  Interesting choice.  I asked it to define Rhapsody.  "A form coming out of spontaneous inspiration and sense of freestyle improvisation producing something that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, and featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality".

Sounded to me like the Mustard Seed all over - but then who am I to judge? If it's not Nana Mouskouri then it's all Greek to me.

P.S. Have you signed up yet for the Anniversary Celebration Party in the Corn Exchange on the 11th June? 
Come for all of it - or part of it! 
And why not bring the whole family to the Shared Lunch?
Everyone warmly welcome - to a Special event to celebrate a Special shop!
Sign up by emailing 

Friday 20 May 2011

Singee Songee Sick a Pence

A funny Sandwich walked into the Mustard Seed yesterday - and asked for some honey. "Sorry - we don't serve food here" the shop person replied crustily.

It's been happening all week - because it's .

Most people think they know the origin of the Sandwich ( the Sand Wich Project being the prequel to the Blair Wich Project etc etc ) - but this is incorrect. Sandwiches go back much further in time. I found a very old pastrami sandwich at Stonehenge. Very old.

Most sandwiches are also tone deaf apparently - but the one that came in ear on Monday  was clearly kind of musical - in a sandwichy kind of way.

The sandwich song it was singing didn't make much sense to me - but this is what my pink-pidgin-english recorder app made of it:  

Singee songee sick-a-pense
Pockee muchee lye.
Dozen two-times brackee-birdy
Cook him inee Pye.

When him cut-ee topside
birdy-bobbee sing.
Himee tinkee nice-ee dishy
set-ee fore-ee king.

Gerry inee tower loom
countee much-ee money.
Robbie inee Mustee See
chow-chee bready-honey

Girly in-ee Markee plays
hang-ee out-ee crose
Down come-ee brackee-birdy
nipee offee nose!

Who are Robbie & Gerry I wonder? A boy band probably. 

Anyway - just to clarify.  We DO serve food in the Mustard Seed. Lots of it.  So - if you're a sarnie looking for a spread, then we'll be more than happy to serve you.  

Saturday 7 May 2011

Diet of Worms

I'm not normally prone to conspiracy theories (the Sunday Sport DID get it right about Elvis now being a poodle on the moon however. The headline was "Ain't Nothin' but a Moon Dog" - which I didn't get) -  but I did stumble across something really very sinister earlier this week that I thought you should  know about. I must stress that this is FOR REAL, and I urge you to email this on to as many friends as possible.

I was on the way down to the Corn Exchange to vote when I heard it.  Perfectly innocent - or so it may have seemed to the less perceptive. A girl in hoptails wearing a pinnaforte and playing bobscotch - and singing to herself. I could only  make out some of the words - but it was enough:

...think I'll go and eat worms               ... fat ones, thin ones
                          ... bite off the heads, and suck out the juice
.                  ...  throw the skins away
                                                    ....On worms three times a day 

THAT's when it hit me  - clear as criers' bell.  THEY (you know who I mean)... THEY are trying to foist a foreign (probably vegetarian ) voting system on us - supperifically surreptitiously - or whatever the word is.

I'm not stupid you know.  I've heard of the Diet of Worms. That was when the Bundestag ordered the Bundespost to put worm powder on the back of stamps so that when you licked the stamp you started speaking Slytherin (worm language that sounds like German I think) rather than good old English. (and sometimes your legs and arms dropped off - although I'm not sure about that bit - maybe they were chopped off) .

That was the start of the slippery slope - and we DON'T want the same to happen here.

You think I'm over-reacting?  Not so.

I arrived at the polling station - and there it was  - in your face. A big sign.  LOW-CAL ELECTIONS HERE.  They weren't even trying to hide it. They might as well have put DIET ELECTIONS HERE .

And that wasn't all.  When I came up to the desk, the polling lady (she looked shifty) whispered (I had to lip-read) that our local MP (yes - this goes right to the top) was also on THE DIET (good thing too) and had first passed a post. (Ouch - worse than kidney stones probably).

It's bad enough finding ylang ylang and jojoba in your cornflakes (hey - what's wrong with ingredients that you can at least pronounce?) - and that we now need hair straighteners to deal with the dizzy affros (or is it affro dizzies ?) -  but this latest foreign invasion regarding THE DIET is beyond the bucket.

It gets worse. There I was in the polling booth about to put pen to paper - when my finely tuned auditory canals  picked up a female mumble from a fellow voter through the hardboard partition - through the grille of the confessional so-to-speak. "These Candy Dates all need to be thrown out!" - I heard clearly .  I was outraged! Foreigners trying to abolish our sweet tooth? Obviously part of THE DIET plan. I felt like confronting the infidel in question with "Unhand me you Heathen - the Game is Up! " But I didn't  - because the mumble continued.  "These candy dates ...  all just ham actors in a Pub .... " .  That one took me a couple of seconds to work out.  Ah yes - it clicked.  Bar Skit Cases - she must have meant.

So - HOW can we protect the British Bonbon  from THE DIET and the Slytherin invasion?

Luckily - there IS an answer.

1. Only use self-adhesive stamps
2. Buy LOTS of lovely Candies and delicious Dates  from the Mustard Seed
3. AND Beautiful Bar Skits (apologies for the "basket" typo in the catalog) to put them in

And I'm now going to forward all of this on to the Sunday Sport.

P.S. Vegetarians... They DO eat worms don't they? 

Friday 29 April 2011

Palace Needs Poop

According to Wikileaks, there's Panic at the Palace.

A crinkle in Kate's crinolene?  Willie got the wobblies?

No - much worse.

They're short on the kopi luwak for the after-dinner coffee & choccies.

Those of us with a passing interest in coprology will know that kopi luwak gets its rich mellow flavours from its brave journey  through the stomach acids and digestive tract of the  Asian palm civet.

And that's the guts of the problem. Civets don't have opposable thumbs - so they can't build bulldozer busters - so they can't prevent rainforest destruction - so there's less of them - so there's a shortage of civet poop. You get the picture.  Less poop = less kopi luwak.

At £40 a bean (and in the current economic climate),  it's definitely worth trying to fake it.

The Palace have certainly tried.  All night long, the corgis were turning somersaults and yapping at imaginary caffeine-induced cats, and the queen now has big bags under her eyes (but that's because she's actually quite old).

It was also Wikileaks that let the civet cat out of the bag about the secret memo received by all six million Civil Servants earlier this week. For one night only they were all to become Civet Servants.  I don't need to spell out what they were asked to do: you can read this for yourself on the Wikileaks website.

But what has this got to do with the Mustard Seed - you may ask?

No idea.

Ask me again after I've had my morning cup of delicious traidcraft medium roast while watching the Royal Wedding....  

Saturday 23 April 2011

Friday 15 April 2011

Clogged up Arteries

You'll be pleased to hear that the Mustard Seed have engaged the services of an eminent Cardologist to give our hundreds of beautiful Easter Cards a good health check.  And he's a Christian - although I haven't previously come across his particular denomination.

Barnard? Maybe you've heard of it.

He's also quite a hearty fellow - although he does like his big words. Lots of consultants speak in the same vein I suppose.

And he wears a cardigan. Here's an example of his cardy-yakking. He could have said quite simply: "From the drawer, move them to the card rack in the Shop. Good air flow is important. Don't block up the corridor. "

But this was his version : "Open up the chest,  then on three, transplant to my-cardium in the main atrium. Ventriclation is vital. Avoid blocking arterial passages" .

And when poor Rose accidentally overcharged a customer for a beautiful Easter card (she couldn't believe that it was such good value) , our Cardologist was heard to exclaim:  "A Cardinal sin - although only Veinial on this occasion! It's a Pull-More-Money-Fibb Rose Is. We need to correct De Fibber Later " . Bizarrely - it actually sounded as if he was talking about pulmonary fibrosis &  defibrillators - but I think that's probably just a coincidence.

Anyway - our cardiganned cardologist has declared that the wonderful a la card selection of Mustard Seed Easter cards as "simply cardilaginous - cardolic-acid and carduncle-free - and full of healthy cardohydrates" .

Yes - excellent news - don't you think?

The Mustard Seed - just a heartbeat away -
at the heart of the community.
For all our Easter Cards, Easter Gifts, and Easter Eggs.

Ah - delicious!

(Sorry - that last bit slipped in by accident. I'm sipping from my glass of rather Superior Vina Cava you see. )

And now for something Venn Tri-Colour:

Sunday 10 April 2011

Your Easter Eggs: Scrambled or Poached?

According to the eggsperts at wikipedia, The number of folds in a chef's hat supposedly represents the number of ways that s/he knows how to cook a chocolate egg - with the vaunted 100-fold hat reserved only for the heads of the heads of the finest culinary establishments in Lilliput.

And did you know the origin of the "egg-timer"?

Here's how it started. Sea-farers plying the globe in their wooden galleons would measure the passage of time by placing a chocolate egg aft of the poop deck, marking off the days by the position of the white mould-line as it crawled its way across the surface of the egg.

But this only worked with rubbishy supermarket chocolate eggs that went mouldy easily.

All that changed when the Mustard Seed started stocking their much more delicious and higher quality fairtrade chocolate eggs.  

So - when Sir Francis Drake bought his lovely fairtrade chocolate egg from the Mustard Seed and it didn't go mouldy; he died of fright as a result - all because he thought his whole family had been turned to stone. (He'd landed on Easter Island by mistake).

Ever since then, chocolate eggs have been part of our Easter celebrations, and the very best ones are found in the Mustard Seed - along with a lovely explanation of the Easter Message (no mention of the slaver Francis Drake though - which is a good thing too, because he wasn't a very fair trader at all).

The Real Easter Egg is the first and only Fairtrade chocolate Easter Egg to explain the Christian understanding of Easter on the box. As well as being fully fairtrade, it also supports charity and development projects - buying everything from medical equipment for new mums here at home, to chickens and securing fresh water for farmers in Africa.

And - because these special eggs are slightly smaller than usual - they also have a lot less air in them compared to the normal rubbishy supermarket ones (what a rip-off eh - charging for air! ) , and are therefore also much less fattening (air contains 586 cal / 100g ) .   

But maybe these beautiful eggs are still a bit too big for you?

For the egg-poacher turned egg-hunter looking for six of one & half a dozen of the other, we have the new Easter Egg Hunters' Kit from Divine (Ghana) - delivered to you in a real egg box with set of real egg hunter signs and six real chocolate eggs - also suitable for frying, poaching & boiling.  Let me know how you get on. Three minutes should do it.

Sorry - what was that? You don't want any air at all in your egg? You just want deliciously solid smooth chocolate in the shape of an egg so that it's perfect for secretly sniffing & licking?

Well - that is bordering on the Sybaritic. Bacchanalian even. Epicurian some might say.  Definitely Ambrosial.

OK. We'll make a few especially for you. But to curb your excesses, we're going to have to make your solid eggs delicately petite - so that when you breathe in those heady chocolatey aromas you don't over-indulge.

And there it is. The eggsquisitely crafted mini egg. Just for you.  A whole bagful. Perfect for licking and perfect for sharing (although - probably not in that order) . Also perfect for hiding from children. But not so good for coddling or pickling. Microwaving is quite fun though, especially with the wrapper still on.

Yoking apart, if you're as eggcited & eggstatic as me about all of this, I suggest you scramble down to the Mustard Seed at once to stock up in plenty of time for Easter; egged on by the Lilliputian big-endians and little-endians alike. 

Friday 1 April 2011

Einstein & Relativity

He was called "Ein Stein" by his mum because he weighed in at a whopping "One Stone" when born. No wonder he landed on his head. And in the eleventh dimension, Einstein was born (14th March) in the same year as he died (18th April). This being the 1st of April, we're now at the exact balance-point between the two dates. We have Equality.

Equality = Mustard Ceed2 .

Or E = MC2   .

(Funny - if Einstein had been better at spelling then that famous equation would have been E = MS2  I suppose ) .

But did you know that - because of the Theory of General Relativity - your head ages faster than your feet?  (just look at Albert's head if you're not convinced) . Relative speed of aging all depends on the distance from the nearest significant gravitational field.

Yes - a 79 year old head - being six feet further away from the Earth -  is approximately 90 billionths of a second older than the attached feet  (assuming same owner, no transplants, and no standing on head) .

You'll be pleased to know that - in order to optimise product quality - we've now applied the Theory of General Relativity to the placement of items on the Mustard Seed shelves.

Clearly - items placed on the higher shelves will age more rapidly.

Under the new layout, looking at the top shelf, the coffee aficionados amongst you I'm sure will appreciate the new deep rich overtones in the machu picchu flavours that can only come about because of that added relative time.

But rancid cashews & brazils on the other hand are more of an acquired taste. So - not surprisingly, they're now wallowing in the elixir of eternal nuttiness that is represented by that bottom shelf, where time crawls more sluggishly - relatively speaking.  

Clever huh?

But - every silver lining has a cloud could.

And what is that could - you may ask?

Well - the top shelf items will get old faster and will reach their sell-by dates sooner - and if we're not careful this could create a crack in the very fabric of space-time itself

That's the cloud could

But you can help prevent this could from happening.

How - you may well ask?

Well, simply buy more stuff  - more often  - and more quickly.

Here's how it works. Imagine a Geobar racing round inside the Large Hadron Collider - chased by hoards of Higgs-Boson particles (as yet undiscovered) - trying to catch up with its own sell-by date.

You then breeze in - sipping your martini. You nonchalantly reach into the bowels of the big machine  - ignoring the intense electromagnetic fields that would fry any normal mortal - and you then BUY the Geobar - while discovering the Higgs-Boson at the same time.

Result? The Geobar never reaches its sell-by date, and your ethical decision (well - the gluons in your Moral Relativity to be more precise ) neatly glues up the cracks in the anti-matter space-time continuum.

You've saved the planet - yet again.

But - be careful...  (see graph) . Joy-riding the LHC  sounds like fun - but going really really fast can cause ethical mayhem.

It's probably safer just to chase down to the Mustard Seed (not TOO fast mind) & buy your Geobars there.

P.S. Well done on the Higgs-Boson by the way.  

Saturday 26 March 2011

Hagar-the-Horrible's Mum

Mothering Sunday

Some will tell you that we celebrate "Mauthrin Sunday" in memory of  St Mauthrin the Viking (or should that be Viqueen?): mother of Hagar the Horrible and inventor of simnel cake & the explanation mark.

But that is of course complete nonsense.

There IS an interesting Mothers' Day Viking link that concerns us nonetheless. The Vikings - you see - (being good plunderers rather than good spelers) thought that MOTHERS' DAY was (and still is) an anagram of MUSTARD SEED;  and thus discovered that the Mustard Seed is probably the best place in England (maybe even the world)  for Mother's Day gifts. The Mother-of-all Mothers' day shops.

There's the delicately alluring fair trade silk scarves; the mother-of-pearl fair trade jewellery; the exquisite hand-made cards that are so perfect for Mothers' Day (and there's also really cheap Mother's Day cards if you're looking for something for your mother-in-law); the mouthwateringly motherly chocolates; the rubber washing-up gloves (sorry - Freudian slip there); and of course the matronly winged helmets.  And as documented in Sven Forkbeard's Annals of Viking Exploits, the Mustard Seed was at the very top of all the Viking plundering lists, and one of the main reasons why they so frequently made the crossings over from Norway. Even Hagar the Horrible didn't forget to get his mum a Mother's Day gift from the Mustard Seed.

Scholars will then tell you that Mothering Sunday - the 4th Sunday of Lent -  is also called Dominica Refectionis (Refection Sunday - refection meaning meal - hence refectory) because of the scripture reading of Joseph feeding his brothers.

Gosh - how interesting - you're probably thinking.  But - LL's Bells!  I've just realised something else.

If you add an L to refection then what do you get?

Yes - RefLection. The picture above is now beginning to make sense to me. Or - maybe you'd already spotted it.

Anyway - when you're in the Mustard Seed buying a present for your mum, you may see a Viking swooping in astride a winged helmet bellowing out the Song of the Valkyries in Norse. If so - do ask him/her  if it really was St Mauthrin who invented the explanation mark.


P.S. By the way - where do you put the apostrophe in Mother's Day ?

Sunday 20 March 2011

New Bookies now Open for Business

Yes that's right: get your dosh out & come down to the Mustard Seed to check out the new Bookies! 
Life's a lottery as they say, but if you play your cards right - even when the odds seem stacked against you - take a chance on the Mustard Seed and the guaranteed returns will soon get you back on track. 
So - go on! It may be Twitter's 5th Birthday tomorrow, but FLUTTER is now the new Twitter!  Have a little Flutter. Get your Leggies into gear to see the new Bookies at the Mustard Seed. Bookies especially for Lent.   
Ah yes. Lent.   Lent is an interesting word don't you think? Especially when used in the context of bookies. "I lent him that bookie" - actually means that you probably won't see it again until you trip over it at a jumble sale.   
And there's not only the new bookies to see - but also the new Christian Marketplace Magazine: in print and online - and full of new bookies. Click on the image below to view it in full, or pick up your copy at the Mustard Seed.
Here's another interesting thing. For most Bookies you have to be at least 18 years old;  but not at the Mustard Seed .  Ankle biters, nippers, rugrats, sprogs &  munchkins all welcome.

And - talking of munchkins, Delia Smith for once is not cooking bookies about cookies. This time she's cooked up a real feast with her forty reflections.

Forty. That reminds me. Apparently, Australians  think that you fast during Lent for "Forty Nights" because they pronounce it " For Tea - Na Eats"  - but that's another story .

Anyway - back to the Mustard Seed. Did you know that ABBA even wrote a song about our little shop full of big surprises?

If you want a read,
Come to Mustard Seed
Take a chance indeed.
If you don't want greed.
It's the place to go, 
For your mind to grow,
To fulfil your need
Come to Mustard Seed

Saturday 12 March 2011

Motherhood & Apple Pi

The Guatemalan Squeezy Honey Drought that befell the Mustard Seed on Pancake Day last week will be etched into the annals of Mustard Seed history.

We ran out.


Instead, Shoppers were having to resort to the deliciously fruity Paraguayan strawberry jam & absolutely ambrosial chocolate hazelnut spread containing hazelnuts from Malawi, cocoa from Equador and sugar from Costa Rica to put on their pancakes.

I mean - who wants to put a whole  fairtrade world map on their pancakes eh?

We also ran out of the Orange/Cinnamon Rose/Geranium soap sets from Khayelitsha township in South Africa  - but I'm not sure that had anything to do with Pancake Day. If it did - then I wish you a speedy recovery.

The good news is that we're much better prepared for World Pi Day that's coming up this Monday in the 3rd month of the year and the 14th day of that month (3.14) .

We do NOT intend to run out of pie.

OK - trivial point - we don't actually sell pie.  But let's not get picky. The aroma of pie often wafts in from next door.

We can be sure however that Henry Pye (poetlaureately) would turn in his tomb (gravely)  if we ran out of Pie (metaphorically) on Pi Day (homophonically).

Yes - we're talking Star Wars and May the MetaPhors Be with You here.  We're talking Motherhood & Apple Pie.  We're talking about All that's Wholesome & Good. What the Mustard Seed has in abundance.

In English and in Latin.  Pie Jesu .

So: here's a few simple guidelines for Pi Day: Fill your pie hole with humble pie. It's easy as pie, not pie in the sky. Better than telling pork pies, or getting pie-eyed.

3.14 to that .

And as a special treat:  on Pi Day, the Guatemalan squeezy honey will be on special offer at £3.14 .  (normal price = £2.99 )

Please note:  the wholesome goodness of Mustard Seed Motherhood & Apple Pie is only available on those days in the month when the date is divisible by itself.

P.S. For those craving a bit of real maths: if you multiply the diameter of a mustard seed by 3.14 then you still get a very small number.

P.P.S. And if you want to hear what Pi sounds like then click HERE .   

Saturday 5 March 2011

Launch of the iPad 2

"There ain't no such thing as a free launch!" .

Those were indeed the first words uttered by the tartan-trewed super-guru as he strolled incognito into Faringdon Market Place this morning - with a spanking new iPad 2 under one arm, and a bell under the other.

It was the personalised numberplate strapped to his cape that gave the game away.....

SJ 1  .  nothing else.   That was the numberplate. Just  SJ 1  .  Wow.  The numberplate was probably worth more than the cape.


It was none other than ...

Steve Jobs.

What do you mean ? You don't mean....   Surely not?  You mean....  THE Steve Jobs?

Yep.  Steve Jobs.  Founder of the first art nouvelle cuisine super-MAC-something computer. Well -  Scottish-something anyway. Hence the tartan trews presumably.

"HEY GUYS "  - he shouted over the clanging noise of his bell - "I HEARD ABOUT YOUR BUN-THROWING world record - and wanted to see fo' maaself!"

Yikes.  Misunderstanding. Big time. We confiscated his bell and then explained.

"Hi Steve.  Lose the bell  - and lose the HROW ."

"Sarry - wadya mean - lose de HROW ? "  He lunged for the bell, but missed.

"Yes - that's right lose the HROW .   BuntHROWing is what they do in Abingdon when the Queen comes to visit. But OUR world record in Faringdon is without the hrow.  It's the BUNTING world record. No hrow in the middle. Fairtrade bunting for fairtrade fortnight. You know - flags on strings."

We showed him some of the flags that the children had already decorated.

"Wow!. Thad IS  feantastic!" he gushed.  "And - it's so PURRFECT for ma new iPad 2  .  Just take a look at dis BEAST!  "

We watched his demo - enthralled - but perplexed.  Yes - it was certainly BIG - but we couldn't quite see the relevance. And - HOW - in so many words - do you tell the great man that you can't quite see the relevance? Or - maybe it was a diversionary tactic just to get his bell back.

"Sorry - SJ - we can't quite see the relevance." 

It seemed to do the trick.

"Well - it's the new APP that comes bundled in" he explained. "The new FAIRSHOP App"  .

Sounded intriguing. He continued. "Yeah - it's a FAIR SHOP" . He laughed.  We didn't .

"Yeah. ye know - it's a FAIR SHOP? FAIR COP? Ged it?  It maniders yer shapping an' gives ye electric shacks if ye traa de baa de non-fairtrade staaff!"  - he was clearly very pleased with himself - and had also temporarily forgotten about the bell .  "Yeah - it's laak yer own personal po-lees-man - dat makes sho' ye baa fairtrade! "

Maniders yer shapping? Electric shacks if ye traa de baa de non-fairtrade?  Ah yes - monitors your shopping. Electric shocks if you try to buy the non-fairtrade. Why they can't speak proper in the colonies is beyond me.

"But - how does it work?" we asked in close harmony  - almost barbershop - certainly fairshop.

"Weaaalll...." he drawled - pulling a face like a possum and hitching up his tartan trews - "As well as de usual  GPS with GEO-PO-SITION capabilidee, dis baby also has GEO-BAR and GEO-CRUNCH functionalidee. So - it reads de BARcodes and den gives yer a nice liddle taster of GEO-CRUNCH . But dis is a TASTER widdout de middle T .  Yep. It TASERS ye real good an' proper."

Brilliant!  Imagine if all smart phone & tablet owners  were admonished with a gentle 50,000 volts every time they fell off the fairtrade wagon  - they'd soon make sure they didn't keep their smart phones in their trouser pockets.

"Yeahhhh...  An' have y'all come across de new Xbox Kinect game? It's faaanteastic: Kickin'  & punchin' government ministers every taam dey prevaricate at de world trade talks!"

That was the moment that we all saw Steve Jobs  kickboxing an imaginary kangaroo in Faringdon Marketplace.  And if you tell your grandchildren that - they'd never believe you.

"Can ah have ma bell back naa please? "

Friday 25 February 2011

Oblong and Fleshy

"You need to send out an email about dates!"  Karen called through from the kitchen.

"What dates?" I called back from the front room, whilst surreptitiously munching on a delicious fairtrade ginger biscuit and pondering on the possibility of spending a week in a bath full of fairtrade muesli for charity.  "You mean the oblong  fleshy fruits of the date palm? Are they on special offer then at the Mustard Seed?"

"No - dates. You know - DATES.  The dates during Fairtrade Fortnight!"

"Ah yes - right!" I called back - trying to disguise the mouthful of biscuit - "Dates?  - Like going out on dates - and dating sites? To meet other fairtrade supporters you mean?" .  It sounded bonkers to me.  I pondered on whether the bath full of muesli would be better dry  - or with milk .

"NO - DATES.   Diary Dates!" she called out - volume and pitch both significantly up. "Like the Fairtrade market stall next Tuesday! 1st March - that kind of date!"

It was probably better dry - because then you could simply put it back in the packets again afterwards and sell it. Maybe at a discount. And the milk would probably go off anyway. And - what was that Karen was saying about dairy dates

At this point Karen marched in and thrust a sheet of paper into my biscuit hand, dragging me out of my milky reveries. "Look - just type this in and send it off" .

"OK ".   I put the rest of the biscuit in my mouth.

  • Tuesday 1st March: Fairtrade Market Stall at Farmers Market. 9am-1pm .   A couple of volunteer still needed. Can you help perhaps? Call 241707 
  • Thursday 3rd March: Meeting with Palestinian Farmers - Fairtrade olive producers . 7.30pm - Catholic Church.  All welcome - should be very interesting!
  • Saturday 5th March: Fairtrade Bunting World Record Attempt! 9.30-11.30am under Old Town Hall.  Come & Decorate your own bunting flag!
  • Saturday 5th March:   Fairtrade Sale at the Shrivenham Methodist Church Coffee Shop. 10-11.30am . All welcome. 
  • Sunday 6th March:  Fairtrade Sale & Big Brew Hot drinks  in the Catholic Church Hall in Faringdon. 10am-11am . All welcome . 
  • Sunday 6th March: Fairtrade Sale at St Nicholas Fyfield. 10.30am (after village service) . All welcome. 
  • Tuesday 8th March: Fairtrade Pancake Feast at the Shrivenham Methodist Church. 10am-12midday . All welcome. 
  • Sunday 13th March: Fairtrade Sale at St Mary's Buckland - after the Morning Service. All welcome. 
  • Saturday 19th March: Fairtrade Sale at St Denys' Stanford in the Vale. 10am-12midday.  All welcome. 

 "Gosh - what a lot going on!" I commented - noting that there would be lots of milk required for the Pancake feast. "Can you cope yeah ?"

"Cornucopia? Hmmm" ... Karen mused - "Interesting choice of word.  A cornucopia of fairtrade events ..."  

And I was thinking of Nomads in the desert getting all of their dietary requirements just from milk & dates.

Dairy dates indeed.

P.S.  Look out for the discounted muesli  in the Mustard Seed in the Spring . 

Sunday 20 February 2011

The Placebo Effect

A Placebo (latin: I shall please) is a fake medical intervention (for example an inert pill) that is administered as part of the control in medical trials, and very often turns out to be remarkably effective; sometimes even better than the real thing. This is known as the Placebo Effect.

Drug companies don't like the Placebo effect, because there's little profit in sugar pills.  But it sure saves the patient a lot of money.

So we decided to test out whether or not the placebo effect also works with fairtrade.  Do we really HAVE to pay this fairtrade premium to farmers - or would a placebo work just as well?

Yep.  Fake fairtrade .

Well - come on - be honest - have YOU spotted that I wear a fake Rolex  - and that it only tells the right time twice a day?

Step One:  We started by looking at THE MAP ....

Step Two: We then chose a load of dorky friends on their gap yah  -  with their smartphone video cameras -  to go to the interesting places on the map (all of them) & record what happened next.

Step Three:  We bought a load of stuff (tea, coffee, sugar, handicrafts, cocoa, honey, dried fruits, fresh fruits, nuts - and so on) from all these places and of course paid as little as possible for it . Definitely no premium.

Step Four:  (Here's the clever bit) .  We then stuck little fake fairtrade logos on all the cheap stuff ; took it down the Mustard Seed; texted the dorky friends to start filming in their far flung places (at least - those that had remembered their chargers)  ; and then sold off all the stuff - fake logos an' all (and at full price of course - we didn't want the customers to suspect anything) to the gullible bleeding heart liberals who came into the shop.   And the customers never knew the difference; they didn't know they were getting a placebo product - clever huh?  

Yep - Big profits.

But - (on this occasion at least)  - the placebo effect didn't kick in at all.  However much we sold of the cheapo placebo stuff ,  it didn't make a jot of difference to the poor farmers.

The videos ( Android & iPhone in equal measure) showed clearly that the farmers & their families stayed poor.  Very poor. In fact, they got poorer.

We even tried sticking on more fake stickers: but that didn't work either.

So : we have to conclude therefore that the products we buy HAVE to be the real thing if they're going to help the farmers & their families. They have to be properly certified as fairtrade or fairly traded.

And therefore, isn't it just dandy that the new Traidcraft Spring catalogue has just come out: and is available for you to pick up from the Mustard Seed?  
Loaded with new stuff.

And - in the catalogue there's also a very interesting article about the Nocebo Effect  (available to read for anyone with the latest android augmented-reality Z-Axis eBook reader+3D specs ) .  

The article tells us that the Nocebo Effect really does apply to Fairtrade.....

Oh yes.

What's the Nocebo Effect - I hear you ask? (Bionic hearing.... )  Well, patients on placebos often suffer side effects and adverse reactions - even though they're just getting a harmless Placebo. Hence the Nocebo (latin: I will harm) Effect .

The same happens with fake fairtrade.

When we buy all the placebo stuff  in ordinary supermarkets, we think nothing of it.

But <because of that Nocebo Effect?> there's lots of nasty side effects & adverse reactions that we aren't aware of .

Those gap yah smartphone videos show clearly that the poor farmers & their families really suffer when we buy placebo.

In this case, it's got to be the real medicine. No sugar pills - unless they're fairtrade of course.

Which just goes to show that:

Just a spoon of fairtrade sugar makes the medicine go down,
The medicine go down, The medicine go down,
Just a spoon of fairtrade sugar makes the medicine go down,
In  the most delightful way! 

Sunday 13 February 2011

The King's Speech

<EDITOR'S NOTE: This was posted on the afternoon before the BAFTAS ....>

At the BAFTAs tonight, the 181 guests will each receive a £2500 goody bag full of freebees, and  - not being one to miss a marketing trick - I DID phone the organisers offering a contribution from the Mustard Seed. 

Bizarrely - they (well, Jonathan Ross actually) turned down my offer of recycled-paper kitchen rolls and biodegradable kitchen caddy bags.  Instead, they have opted for limited edition Anya Hindmarch designer bags, Grey Goose vodka, Taittinger champagne, Escada scarf, Lancôme beauty creams, Cocorose ballet pumps, and a gold iPhone cover. 

"But the Fairtrade Rosemary & Lavender Gardener's Hand Salve is brilliant!" I insisted.  "Much better than that Lancôme stuff. And it doesn't even need a circumflex to work."
I think he must have been put off by the yuck factor of the recycling of kitchen rolls, because my plaintive " ...but it's SO much more sustainable and with a MUCH lower carbon footprint!" was lost in the ether of a phone line that had gone dead. It was no more. It was pushing up the daisies.  An EX-phoneline. Suddenly - the image of a Norwegian Blue pining for the fjords came into my head. No idea why. 
Rather apprehensively - I then called Colin Firth. 
"Ap-p-pologies.  I'm c-c-alling about t-t-tonight... " - I stammered - the nerves getting the better of me. 
There were barely suppressed chuckles at the other end of the line.  "Very funny - King's Speech an' all that! So - how DO you get a drink out of a Vogon then? " 
It was my turn to laugh - even though I didn't have a CLUE what he was on about (until I looked it up on Google later and found the reference to the Hitchhiker's Guide & the meanest species in the universe:  < you put a finger down his throat> ) .  
Anyway - ice broken - I explained how we are trying to banish UNfair trade etc etc . I had him cornered. 
He interrupted me  - thank goodness - or I might have verbally bludgeoned him into a quivering pulp. Not much use when you're trying to climb those stairs up to the Podium.
"Look" - he said. "We can easily ...  "   
"Wikinisli " I asked - "is that like Wikileaks & Wikipedia ? "   
It wasn't. 
He continued.  "We can easily - if I win tonight - change my surname from Firth to Fairtrade Sound good?  Colin Fairtrade. "
I said that wasn't enough. Nowhere near enough.  
"OK.  When I get up to the podium  - instead of the usual mother-thanking stuff  - I can do a Mustard Seed Speech - like the King's Speech.  What do you think? Just send me the text. " 
I was speechless.   Well - you know what I mean.  This sounded like - hmmm - like Colin Firth.  
Anyway. Here's what I sent him. 
The M<y bonnie lies over the ocean!>ustard S<£$%%!!>eed P<ining for the fjords!>romotes the Christian F<aringdon is fantabulous!>aith and H<old on to your horses Hermione!>ighlights the P<eter piper picked a piece of pickled pepper>rinciples of F<!£$***%>air T<o Buy fairtrade or Not to buy Fairtrade  - that is the Question!>rade through the S<sells seashells on the sea shore>ale of C<hristmas is only 312 days away!>hristian literature and F<ine time to buy from the Mustard Seed!>airly T<urn again Tony!>raded G<**&^%$>oods.  It's F<airly traded>antastic and WE ALL SUPPORT IT!
Amazingly - when he read it back to me on the phone he didn't stammer once. 
So - let's hope he wins.


Sunday 6 February 2011

Rod Stewart

 As you can see from the photo on the right,  Rod Stewart happened to pop in to the Mustard Seed the other day - on his way to Wembley (I think he may have been lost).

"This shop rocks man - Yeah! " he throated - in his characteristically gravelly voice.

"Did you know that Sinepiseemned is the Estonian for Mustard Seed? "  

I didn't. 

"And this stuff is good enough to eat!" - he said, picking up a bottle of the new Guatamalan squeezy honey. "Perfect for porridge! "  

I agreed. 

"I see you have a SALE onNeed a hand to shift the merchandise? " he grated. 

Well - rather tentatively - I  suggested he might like to write a song that we could perhaps use in our marketing. 

His reaction was pure Rod. 

" Yeah man - Wembley can wait! Your SALE comes first!  " 

Five minutes later - on the inside of a beautiful handmade hand-embroidered Bangladeshi humming bird card - Rod had penned the following oddly familiar verse :


We are Saling ,  We are Saling
Fairly Trading, From cross the Sea,
We are trading ,  with poor farmers, 
To release them, from poverty!

And then - right there - he picked up his air guitar - and launched into song.  Fantastic!   Especially the solo guitar work . 

"That could be a hit - possibly " I said carefully . 

"Or - would it work better in Estonian?"  he replied - extracting another handful of gravel from the back of his throat.  "By the way - D'you need your driveway doing?" 

At which point, his stretch limo took out another bollard whilst trying to negotiate the right hand turn round the marketplace.

Anyway - LOSE the thought of the bollard - that really isn't relevant to this email.   It's the Sinepiseemned SALE that's the news here (Sorry - been around Rod too much - I keep dropping Estonian into the conversation) .  

Yes - as Rod played so beautifully on his air guitar (you had to be there) it's SALE time at the Sinepiseemned

So - to cut a long email short - Pop in to the Sinepiseemned to P-P-P-Pick up a Penguin (well - blue elephant that looks a bit like a penguin anyway )  . 

And there's lots & lots & lots lots & lots & lots of other BEAUTIFUL items reduced!   (For the vegetarians amongst us, some of them aren't even animals )  . 


"Wow - those baskets would be great for putting grandchildren in!"

"And did you know that trawets dor is Rod Stewart backwards ? "  - Rod asked on his way out. 

I didn't. 

But I do now.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Rabbie Burns?

Chinese Whisky is apparently now as good as Scotch Whisky ; China's Li Na and Scotland's Andrew Murray both came 2nd at the Australian Open; and this weekend falls smack in the middle of Burns's  birthday (25th Jan) and the Chinese New Year (Feb 3rd) .  And as if that isn't spooky enough for you:  It's going to be the year of the RABBIT - which is how Chinese people pronounce ROBERT .

The link between all these ChinoScottish (dis)connects is clearly and unequivocally The Mustard Seed  in Faringdon - but to explain HOW and WHY is beyond the bounds of this simple email.  Douglas Adams puts it very simply : "When you try to take a cat apart to see how it works then what you get is a non-working cat" .

So:  Sorry.  There's not going to be a full-blown explanation of all the Holistic links in this email . We don't want non-working cats.

But - at LEAST we can list just a couple of the reasons why Rabbie Burns would have been a Frequent Shopper (with a Loyalty Card) at the Mustard Seed :

  •  - Rabbie's Birthday is the SECOND most celebrated birthday on the Planet (guess who's first! ) 
  •  - Rabbie  - like most Scots - had an eye for a bargain.  Then  - at the age of 29, the Poacher turned into Gamekeeper and he became an Exciseman (preventer of smuggled & untaxed goods).  Quoting from a letter to his uncle <make sure you read this out in broad Scots!>  "Previously - I WAS engaged in the smuggling trade, and God knows if ever any poor man experienced better returns — two for one! — but now I am thinking of taking out a license and beginning in fair trade.' 
Is this the earliest reference (1788) to "Fair Trade" that we can find ?   (There's a challenge for you ! )  

And Rabbie's BOGOF reference of "two for one" is also a wistful observation of his partner's propensity to give birth to twins.....  

Burns's poetry (when it wasn't about women's breasts! ) was very radical; and strongly supported the underdog and the dispossessed. 

He most certainly would have wanted to banish UNfair trade - and would have applauded our wholehearted support for the Mustard Seed :  

For a' that an' a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that