Sunday, November 26, 2023


On Thursday 23rd November, I received an extremely unexpected e-mail: 

“Beginning December 4, 2023, limited quantities of the KODAK Super 8 Camera will be available to U.S. customers. Availability outside the U.S. will be announced at a later date. If you are interested in purchasing a camera once it is available in your country, you must sign up on Kodak's NEW camera reservation list by November 28, 2023, opting in to communications from third-party retailers authorized by Kodak. By completing the new form by the deadline, you will maintain your position from the previous list.”

The Kodak Super 8 Camera was originally announced in 2016, at which point I joined the reservation list. In the absence of further announcements in the following years, I seriously considered whether Kodak was serious: like Polaroid, RCA, and Blaupunkt, the Kodak name has been licensed for everything from cheap AA batteries to tablet computers and blockchain mining, its original business of making camera film now the preserve of professional and “prosumer” especially, especially if a roll of 35mm still camera film can cost nearly £10.

Still, I was intrigued by the possibilities of shooting motion pictures on Super 8 film, using Kodak film cartridges, with a camera that included innovations from camcorders like an LCD screen for a viewfinder, and the ability to record sound onto an SD card placed into the camera. Once developed, the film would be returned to you with a link to download a video film in 4K resolution. I was excited by the possibilities of what I could make – the two-and-a-bit minute run time of a cartridge would be a fun challenge. Kodak announced this camera with a projected price of between $400 and $750 – seeing as the next nearest camera available is the Arri 416, a 16mm industrial film camera with a 2023 price tag of £78,000 (but available to rent), the Kodak Super 8 Camera would have fostered its own industry of filmmakers.

The price of the camera has increased after seven years, but not with inflation: Kodak will now be charging a horrifying $5,495 for a camera that does not appear to have been developed since 2016, having retained the originally announced design. This will be purely for professional use only, demanding professional prices, completely severing me from the possibility of buying one for myself – even the new registration film assumes you are working in the film industry, with a space to write in “other” occupations and intended uses. In 2023, the presence of a replaceable battery should have been enough of a sign this will be a professional product, even if charging it by micro USB appears to be a holdover from 2016. It feels like what could have been a mass-produced camera will now be assembled by hand like a Swiss watch.

For most, the Kodak Super 8 camera’s place in film history has been taken by the Apple iPhone, because its camera has been constantly developed to approach a professional results while being as simple or as advanced to use as its user requires. For the next level up, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro, with a DSLR form factor producing 6K pictures approximate to Super 35 film, a cinematic motion picture standard, costs half what Kodak are charging for their camera, even if you have to buy the lenses separately. You can apply the film grain in post-production...

Sunday, November 19, 2023


The story of the Co-Op grocery chain’s “ambient sausage roll” has lived at the back of my head for at least a decade, as a go-to example of a non-sequitur: “ambient” is an odd description for a foodstuff, even if the context is explained. All I know of the story is that sausage rolls were sold with this label, and later withdrawn as someone admitted the word was used without confirming its meaning first.

Coming from the land of bubble and squeak1, Stargazy Pie2 and the Bedfordshire Clanger3, “ambient” is hardly a strange enough word to cause offence, but in January 2010, it apparently did. Using the few news articles I found of it online from the following month, I put together the following statement that was issued by something named the Plain English Campaign: “We’ve had quite a few people call to say they’ve seen these ‘ambient sausage rolls’ on sale at the Co-op. It’s caused much amusement. I know it’s supposed to be ‘all at the Co-op’ but what on earth is an ambient sausage roll’?”

This was followed up by a spokesman from the Co-Op: “The use of the word 'ambient' on the label of this product was an administrative error - labels for in-store bakery items are printed in store and the word 'ambient' was incorrectly printed on the label. This is now being rectified but thank you for drawing this to our attention and apologies for any confusion this may have caused.”

“The Daily Telegraph” apparently had an editorial comment at the time calling it a “small victory for plain English”, but I am not willing to pay to read what more they said on the matter. I would still like to think of it as a mistake that can be interpreted as a bit of fun.

The Plain English Campaign is a group focussed on eradicating legal and medical jargon, gobbledygook and clichés, so naming food doesn’t appear to fall under their purview - their website makes no mention of their earlier comment. Interestingly, the incident exposed a different use of the word “ambient” by the food industry to mean “displaying at room temperature”, suitable for the surroundings, instead of evoking the creation of a relaxing atmosphere – a 2017 article in “The Grocer” magazine was headed “Country Choice launches 12-hour ambient life sausage roll”.

If this mistake had taken place in 2023, I am pretty sure the Co-Op’s social media accounts would have made hay while the sun shined, with a range of “ambient” products remaining on sale far longer. I just prefer it when having fun with language isn’t discouraged.

1 A fried dish of mixed cabbage and cooked potato.

2 Pilchard, egg and potato tie, served with a pastry crust that has the pilchard heads sticking out, preferably upwards. 

3 A pastry tube, not unlike a sausage roll, filled with meat, potato and onions, not unlike a pasty.


Sunday, November 12, 2023


A last one.

I decided to write about Caramac, “The Caramel Flavour Bar”, the demise of which has been announced by its manufacturer Nestlé, because some headlines kept referring to it as a chocolate bar. Its recipe used treacle instead of cocoa, its lack of egg or gelatine making it vegetarian, and instead of the whole milk used by Cadbury’s in Dairy Milk bars, Caramac used skimmed milk.

I am also using the past tense because the news led to the near-complete disappearance of Caramac by people acting upon nostalgia in the shops, when declining sales in the present day prompted Nestlé’s decision, efficiently clearing shelves for other products they wish to sell. The simultaneous withdrawal of the Animal Bar, a chocolate bar aimed at children with pictures of animals on them, and the closure of a factory near Newcastle, were reported less often.

Unlike Coca-Cola’s rebranding of Lilt as a Fanta flavour, decried in the pages of “The Spectator” and incorrectly reported as the drink being withdrawn, this really is the end of a product, unless you buy the ingredients and make it yourself. My family has already been deprived by KP of their Brannigans crisps, my private joke being that their potent beef and mustard flavour, not reused on any of their brands, was decommissioned and put beyond use. Like Caramac, I only found Brannigans in discount stores and the occasional newsagent ahead of their withdrawal – perhaps I should have seen it coming, so fans of KP’s Roysters T-bone flavour crisps should stock up, to keep sales up, as petitions speak less loudly than cash.

Caramac was introduced in 1959 by Mackintosh’s, a maker of toffee that involved caramel in all its most famous brands, such as Quality Street, Rolo and Toffee Crisp. Merging in 1969 with Rowntree’s, manufacturers of Kit Kat, Smarties, Aero, After Eight, Black Magic, Polo mints, Fruit Pastilles, Fruit Gums, Yorkie and Lion bars, Nestlé took over the combined Rowntree Mackintosh in 1988 – chocolate products were branded under Nestlé, with Rowntree’s retained for the rest. I found all these products in my local supermarket, still being too established and commonplace for nostalgia to have taken form, except for how much larger tins of Quality Street used to be.

Nestlé themselves invented white chocolate with the Milkybar in 1936, and the caramel-infused Milkybar Gold variant is perhaps more sustainable for them than the separate brand of Caramac. However, like Caramac, the Australian and New Zealand versions of Milkybar don’t use cocoa butter, so adding treacle to those may get them back where they started. Any desire of mine for Caramac to be brought back wouldn’t be worth the effort, and if I did want a confectionery to be brought back, it would be Rowntree’s Cabana, a chocolate bar containing caramel, cherries and coconut – I’ve never had one, but I like the sound of it.

Saturday, November 4, 2023


I have now realised that I have a head for heights. This took some time to acknowledge because, while I have not (yet) needed to know my way around a grappling hook, I am fine at heights that others would happily avoid.

In the last week, I have reached the top of the dome at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, known as the Golden Gallery, with my iPhone registering the 528 steps as twenty-five flights of stairs. In February 2020, I climbed a similarly spiralled staircase to reach the top of the clock tower at Southampton Civic Centre, and back in 2015, I walked up and over the O2, formerly the Millennium Dome, which required the use of a harness.

Perhaps it was the lengthy gaps in times between these three events, and taking the stairs is not like climbing a hill – the suspended walkway at the “Up at the O2” attraction uses the same Teflon-coated glass fibre fabric used on the structure itself, which felt like walking on a taut trampoline. The top of the St Paul’s dome is higher than the combined height of the other two structures, but taking a transatlantic flight is higher than all of them, and I’ve so far done six of those without any problems.

However, I have realised a low accompanied every high – I had reason to be annoyed every time. I consider myself to be patient, but my walking pace is slightly faster than average, and if I am physically behind a line of people, I will want to get ahead if I can. Walking up the clock tower and through St. Paul’s, I hoped that people might step aside at the occasional spaces and ledges that existed along the way, as I continued on – the same was true for the way down. Walking up and over the O2 was different, our being attached to a guide rope being useful on windier days but also locking the line into a set order – it did not help that I personally thought the rope wasn’t needed on the way down. 

Worst of all, the Golden Gallery at St. Paul’s is not made for crowds of tourists, with only a couple of feet between stone corners and the guide rails preventing you from rolling down the landmark dome – I said “I am unable to get past” to the people in front of me, at which point I found that English was not their first language. It was not a good time to start feeling constrained by the lack of space, but the adrenaline helped me get down faster than nerves could have done.

Perhaps focussing on the negative when you are doing something outlandish isn’t idea, but it removes any thoughts about that outlandishness – getting the wrong airline food will do that.