Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Just like everyone else who is still the right side of the turf, I am getting older at the astonishing rate of 365 days a year, although - again just like everyone else - I do occasionally step it up to 366. As I pile on these years, I find that I take more and more pleasure in reminiscing. Of course, as the years go by there is more for me to reminisce about (bad grammar but you know what I mean). I appreciate that to those of more tender years the sound of an old dinosaur saying, 'When I was your age... ' (or words like that) means anything from a few seconds to an hour or so of boredom.

The Old Bat and I had a few minutes of happy reminiscence yesterday evening after supper, and it was this that started it.

That's right - a tin of Lyle's golden syrup.

The Old Bat had served rice pudding for dessert. It was nothing like the rice pudding that my mother used to make. She put the rice and some milk into a Pyrex dish, added a knob of butter - no, it would have been margarine as I'm sure she couldn't have afforded butter - and put the whole lot in the oven to bake. When it was done, there was a brown skin across the top and, although mother would try to avoid serving the skin, some always ended up in the bowl. I hated that skin and it always made me gag if I tried to eat it. The pudding itself was a bit runny, not like the tins most people buy nowadays. Although I prefer Ambrosia rice pudding, Mrs S always buys the supermarket's own brand, which is not so thick and creamy. But that's what she prefers, and since it is she who does the shopping... I don't need to say more. I like my rice pudding as it comes from the saucepan - hot and steaming - but the Old Bat always adds a spoonful of golden syrup to hers: hence the tin sitting on the table. I mused that the design of the tin had remained practically unchanged since I was a boy, just a bar code and nutritional information added really, and that led us to think of things we recalled from childhood, like Bassett's liquorice allsorts (I liked them, the OB didn't), aniseed balls (I liked them, the OB didn't) Cadbury's dairy milk chocolate flakes (we both liked them).

Out of curiosity, I thought to see if I could find out how long the syrup tin design had remained unchanged. They did use one in which the green became gold (to mark their centenary or something), but I learned that "this distinctive packaging has hardly changed since 1885 and has been named by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest branding in 2007! Launched in the 1880's, the Victorian-style design has altered little over the years and its enduring image has now earned cult status in the design and packaging industries. During World War 1 the 'tin' was even made out of thick cardboard as metal was being used for the war effort! Abram Lyle had strong religious beliefs, which is why the Lyle's Golden Syrup trademark depicts a quotation from the Bible. In the Old Testament (Book of Judges 14:14) Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and on his return past the same spot he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle: "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness". The "lion and bees" were quickly becoming identified with Lyle's Golden Syrup, and it was registered as Lyle's trademark in 1904. Plaistow employees did not forget to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2004. However, no-one knows why Abram chose the wording 'Out of the strong came forth sweetness'. Was he referring to the tin holding the syrup - or the company producing it?"

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