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Europe

Monday, 28 November 2005
Orange tree I

orange deposit on tree bark

On our walk last weekend on Limpsfield Chart, Surrey, bluemeanie and I found this tree with an orange deposit on the bark.  It was not clear what caused this interesting colour.

I should be back from the Dubai and Muscat late tomorrow afternoon, and will therefore resume normal blogging service.

Posted by bigblue on 28/11/2005 at 06:05 AM
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Saturday, 26 November 2005
A Chelsea tractor

four by four

For comparison with the Leicestershire tractor of yesterday, I present the Chelsea tractor.

Posted by bigblue on 26/11/2005 at 06:18 AM
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Friday, 25 November 2005
A Leicestershire tractor

tractor

I took this photograph of the tractor just outside Ashby-de-la-Zouch last week.  The generic term in Southern Africa for a large vehicle like this which makes a noise like this is ganda ganda.

Posted by bigblue on 25/11/2005 at 06:10 AM
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Thursday, 24 November 2005
Sevenoaks

Sevenoaks

The last rays of the setting sun strike the Norman tower of St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks, Kent.  I found a photograph of an old watercolour of this church here.

Posted by bigblue on 24/11/2005 at 06:36 AM
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Wednesday, 23 November 2005
Autumn

Old couple

This old couple were taking a walk on Limpsfield Chart on Sunday.  The scene brings to my mind the Ted Hughes poem and the Autumn poem that bluemeanie posted.

Posted by bigblue on 23/11/2005 at 08:27 AM
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Tuesday, 22 November 2005
Wine Blogging as Marketing Disruption

dilbert
 
The words quoted below came with my Stormhoek wine promotion. They complement the Dillbert cartoon. Marketing disruption seems to be a fancy term to describe innovatiion that is done for competitive advantage.  It might work well for Stormhoek this time, but if all wine-makers were doing the same thing then there would be a lack of competitive advantage. Besides for the medium it is using, it also seems that Stormhoek is framing itself in a particular way: freshness matters. It’s probably a good idea to get this idea around before wine critics start saying your wine is a bit too fresh, or green. Anyway, here’s the marketing-speak:

  Wine Blogging as Marketing Disruption

  Hiya,

  Thanks for signing up for your free bottle of Stormhoek. I hope you like it.

  OK, so what’s the point of all this? Sure, I suppose giving out a few bottles to some bloggers could potentially be quite good PR, etc etc. Maybe a few of you will blog about it. Maybe not. You never know.

  But in the back of my mind I’m thinking there might be something larger going on here.

  What if, say, not one or two of you end up blogging about it, but a couple of dozen? What will be the rippling effect?

  Will the idea-virus spread far enough that suddenly, instead of one or two people knowing about the wine, suddenly tens of thousands of smart connected people in the UK know about it, and are talking about it?

  Is that enough to launch a national brand?

  If it isn’t, well, no great loss. We will have gotten some PR out of it, and maybe a few long-term Stormhoek customers out of the blogosphere.

  But if it is, then I’m thinking, Holy ####, what we’re doing might put a lot of traditional ad agencies out of business. Seriously.

  We’re talking serious marketing disruption.

  But as a marketing blogger, I’m starting to believe that all marketing should be serious marketing disruption.

  Of course I can’t do it by myself. I need your complicity if it’s going to work. No complicity, no idea-virus. I can’t just write a big media company a cheque and make the marketing problem go away. Those days are gone.

  What do you get out of it? A free bottle of wine and a chance to play a part in screwing up the traditional marketing and advertising landscape forever. A chance to see how far we can stretch the power of the blogosphere.

  This is only an experiment. Luckily we have a wine company crazy enough to have let me talk them into it. So we’ll see what happens. Rock on.

  “FRESHNESS MATTERS.”

  Those two words sum up the heart and soul of Stormhoek.

  Contrary to popular belief, most wines do not improve with age. Sure, the great wines of Bordeaux and the Burgundies often do, as do certain others, but these are not the wines that most of us are buying most of the time.

  A grape picked straight off the vine is one of the freshest taste experiences imaginable. It’s juicy, intensely fruity, often aromatic, and held in balance by a streak of zippy, bracing acidity. This abundant fruitiness is something that winemakers, over the last three decades, have worked hard to capture and preserve in their wines.

  30 years ago, most white wines were dull, lacking in fruit, and low in alcohol. This was largely the result of a gaping void (heh) between what vineyard owners and wineries wanted ? the vineyard owners wanted to get as many grapes as possible into the winery as quickly as possible (so, as for ripeness, forget it) and the winery owners wanted to process the stuff into wine as quickly as possible (not the best way to make a high-quality wine). The end results were, at best, just about okay. Winemakers soon discovered other ways of adding flavour to their wines ? sugar, for instance (a great cover for wine faults), or oak.

  Luckily, after a while, smart people in the wine industry then realised that the best they could do was attempt to get the freshness of the grape on the vine into the bottle as honestly and faithfully as possible. No fuss. Just pure- fruit-driven flavour. But how to make this happen?

  Working closely with growers to manage yields and determine a picking time when the grapes were actually ripe was the first step. Then, the evolution of reductive winemaking technique played a major part. The idea here is to preserve maximum freshness in the wine by making sure that oxygen does not come into contact with the grapes or juice at any point in the winemaking process. This is not an easy business, but it’s one that brings rich rewards in the freshest-tasting, brightest, most youthful wines on the market.

  The quest for freshness did not stop with the wine in the bottle. The closure, for instance ? why seal a bottle of bright, zesty, fresh-tasting wine with a musty old cork? Why indeed? Hence the invention of the synthetic cork. Over the last couple of years, the screwcap has become widely accepted as the most reliable way of sealing a bottle of wine and keeping it tasting fresh and youthful.

  So, there we have it ? the shelves filled with bottles of the brightest, freshest-tasting wine, sealed with screwcaps and synthetic corks ? the stage is set for a truly enjoyable taste experience.

  To get to this point took some of the best wine producers on the planet 30 years to figure this out. Of course, freshness doesn’t last forever. Wines get old. Taste fades. These “fresh” sorts of wines do not improve with time ? in fact, the processes which are used to make them taste fresh actually make them deteriorate faster over time. This is scientific reality.

  Hence the Stormhoek ‘Ultimate Freshness Indicator’ on the back of the bottle. It’s that little dial that tells you when the wine you’re holding in your hand is at its freshest i.e. when is the best time to drink it.

  This is the logical next step from the screwcap. It seems pretty idiotic to spend all this time making wine and not letting your customers know when the best time to drink it is.

  Wine, merely through an accident of history, has become an bit of an enigma. As a marketer, what I’m interested in the “Smarter Conversation”. Telling people that “Freshness Matters” is Stormhoek’s way of doing it.

  Freshness Matters. You heard it here first.

  Thanks Everybody. I hope you like the wine.

  Best

  Hugh MacLeod

Here are links to the Stormhoek site, Hugh’s blog and to Dilbert.

Posted by bigblue on 22/11/2005 at 11:29 PM
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Monday, 21 November 2005
Bombs away

bomb crater

This is a bomb crater on Limpsfield Chart near Oxted in Surrey.  I understand that German bombers in the Second World War used to drop their bombs here in the countryside if they had any left over after blitzing London, before heading back over the channel to their bases in occupied France.  There are several craters in the forest, and on one occassion some houses in nearby Oxted were hit.  Mostly it was the squirrels who had to scurry for cover.

On Tuesday night I leave for a seven day trip to Dubai (and Muscat) for my twin cousins’ 30th birthday celebrations. I am not sure that I will be willing or able to blog from there, so I have pre-prepared the next 7 days worth of postings in advance.  If I get the chance these might be interspersed with postcards from the desert.

In the meantime do keep an eye on bluemeanie’s blog.

Posted by bigblue on 21/11/2005 at 10:06 PM
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Mark knows everything

Kate knows nothing

Our colleague Kate has just gone over to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for some months to work there.  She started this blog before she left, and we are eagerly awaiting the next installment here.

Posted by bigblue on 21/11/2005 at 08:15 PM
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