Fallen Giant 1

I have had a relationship with British clothing store Marks & Spencer for twenty years.  Every time I go to London, I visit M&S and buy underwear, socks, shirts and trousers — enough to last me until my next visit.  While I’ve occasionally bought a shirt or two from U.S. outlets like Target or Kohl’s and casual trousers from Sam’s Club, fully 80% of my wardrobe carries the M&S brand — and because in terms of its fit and endurance no other brand has come close to M&S, over the past twenty years, I’ve never worn underwear or socks from anywhere else,.

Nor have many Brits:

One in three British women buys their bras from M&S — 45 bras are sold every minute in-store — while two pairs of knickers fly through the tills each second, which equates to more than 60 million pairs a year.

And from memory, about 50% of British men in the 1990s bought their socks at M&S, simply because they were the very best you could buy, at any price.  With that kind of market share, how could they fail?

M&S also screwed up royally before 2000, by the way, by not accepting any credit cards other than their own charge card.  It was that, or cash.  I discovered this blithering idiocy the very first time I went to their flagship Oxford Street store, went to the cashier with about six hundred pounds’ worth of merchandise, only to have to leave most of it behind because they wouldn’t accept my Visa card and I only had a hundred-odd pounds in cash.  I remember ranting at the floor manager at their arrogance — “throwing good business away” was the phrase I used — and meeting with complete indifference.  Later (much too late, I think) they changed their policy to accept other cards.

At some point in the early 2000s, things began to change, and not for the better.  Instead of selling the M&S brand exclusively, M&S started to sell branded clothing — “tied” brands (exclusive to M&S), but the boutique stuff was more expensive than the house brand, a lot more, but with no discernible difference in quality.  Actually (and this is just a personal observation) I think the M&S allowed their brand’s quality to slip so that they could use the lower prices to compete with the cheaper High Street- and online competition.  Underwear that I’d bought in the mid-1990s lasted for at least five years, while the M&S underwear I bought in 2017 has already started to fall apart.

When online sales came along, M&S was always going to be the first one clobbered, and they were.  Probably the only thing that saved them was the expansion of their business into takeout convenience foods (which, in all fairness, are excellent albeit rather pricey).

Now the company has been kicked off the FTSE 100 (the Brit equivalent of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — DJIA) because their corporate value has declined to the point of disqualification.   (And note BBC TV personality Jeremy Paxman’s complaint, because it’s very much the way I feel about their loss of quality).

The nearest American example of a corporation’s similar fall from grace is Sears — which once had a market share and customer esteem similar to that of M&S in the U.K., but is now in its death throes, for pretty much the same reasons.

I don’t think that M&S is going to fold any time soon — gawd, I hope they don’t, because where am I going to buy undies when the ones I have start falling apart in five years’ time? — but they have a hell of a job ahead of them.

Comeback Competition #1

In similar vein to the Friday Caption Competition on this website, here’s a new one.

I’m going to post a totally stupid twitter, and you guys create your own comebacks in Comments, thus:

Sample Twit:

Comeback examples:


So here’s the first idiotic twit, for your joyful dismemberment:  

Help yourselves, in Comments.

Filthy Fifties

I’m not talking about the 1950s, either.  I’m talking about women in their fifties who appear to have sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for eternal youth — or at least, the slowing of the ageing process.

Example 1:  Elizabeth Hurley (54)

Example 2:  Monica Bellucci (54)

Example 3:  Salma Hayek (52)

Example 4:  Carol Vorderman (58)

Example 5:  Juliette Binoche (53)

And I should point out that all the above pics are of recent vintage (i.e. taken within the past few months).

Gives a whole new meaning to the term “grab a granny”, dunnit?


From C.W.’s place:

I have to say that for me, the pleasure I get from shooting the .45-70 Govt depends very much on what rifle I’m using.  In my Browning High Wall, it’s fantastic fun.  With a lever rifle — any lever rifle — I have to have some serious padding at the shoulder to be able to shoot more than a few rounds.

I haven’t yet tried that custom ammo in the picture, but I must say I’m intrigued.

I still have a sneaky Bucket List item, which is to hunt Cape buffalo or grizzly bear with my single-shot High Wall, using the heavy Buffalo Bore loads.


HSM makes a 430-gr +P cartridge that breaks the 3,000 ft/lbs at the muzzle, but I don’t know how much that drops off by 50 yards — not much, I would guess.

Compare that with the .375 H&H (300-gr) load Doc Russia ad Mr. Free Market used to nail their respective buffaloes:

Whatever.  All the Africa hands and serious hunters of my acquaintance think I’m insane, because to hunt buff or grizzlies you need a minimum muzzle energy of 3,000 ft/lbs at 50 yards, and the 45-70 doesn’t get there.  Apparently I wouldn’t be able to get a PH / outfitter to accompany me.

It’s still on the list, however.  (Just don’t tell New Wife.)

And A Nation Yawns

…that nation, of course, being the United States when it comes to the Snooze Fest known as Formula 1, who have just announced the new F1 calendar for the 2020 season.

Twenty-two races (up from twenty), with seven back-to-back weekend races (F1 Grand Prix are usually spaced two weekends apart)… as one comedian noted in the comments:  just more races not to watch.

And Hanoi?  WTF were they thinking?  F1 couldn’t even get the South Korean Grand Prix to break even, and that’s in a Third World country that isn’t  a post-Communist shithole.

I had to laugh when I read another comment which suggested Johannesburg’s Kyalami track.  The main reason that F1 doesn’t go to South Africa anymore is that it would be the only venue where the cars could be carjacked during the race itself.  (That said, Kyalami is a brilliant track — I saw the late Niki Lauda win there, back when the teams were racing Fred Flintstone cars, comparatively speaking.  But the races were still more exciting than today’s.)

That said, I’m starting to lose enthusiasm for my lifelong passion — and if I can lose it, a lot more people aren’t going to take it on.

Sic semper res taedia.

Dodged One There

Still from Liz Jones:

I was reminded of a wedding I went to with my then husband Nirpal. The groom had hand made a book of poems about his love for his bride, which he then proceeded to read out loud to her and us. I’d turned to Nirpal and hissed crossly, “Why didn’t you do that for me when we got married?”
And he’d replied, “Think yourself lucky. The groom has had sex with other men.”

Remember:  when you think you’ve had it rough, there’s always  someone else who’s had it worse.