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The Price of Pickles

John Lanchester: Planet Wal-Mart

22 June 2006
The Wal-Mart Effect: How an Out-of-Town Superstore Became a Superpower 
by Charles Fishman.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £12.99, May 2006, 0 7139 9825 3
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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price 
directed by Robert Greenwald.
November 2005
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... questions about utility or practicality or how on earth a thing can be put on sale for such a price. Charles Fishman, in his punchy and valuable book The Wal-Mart Effect, cites the example of Vlasic pickles, the most popular brand in the US. Wal-Mart talked Vlasic into pricing the pickles so that a gallon jar was on sale for $2.97. That is a bizarre, surreal price for a gallon of pickled cucumbers; no ...

The Battle of Manywells Spring

Bernard Rudden: Property and the Law

19 June 2003
Private Property and Abuse of Rights in Victorian England: The Story of Edward Pickles​ and the Bradford Water Supply 
by Michael Taggart.
Oxford, 235 pp., £45, October 2002, 9780199256877
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... for granted, may explain why, to this day, the professors in law schools and the judges in lawsuits return again and again to the late Victorian litigation between Bradford Corporation and Mr Edward Pickles. The case, or rather its name, is nowadays all too often invoked as a slogan, an allusion to an answer rather than an examination of the problem, and we have forgotten the actual matter of the ...

Yum-Yum Pickles

Alex Clark: Claire Messud

6 June 2002
The Hunters: Two Short Novels 
by Claire Messud.
Picador, 181 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 0 330 48814 7
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... her intrusive fussiness, her incessant talking, and most of all the burden of providing her with sandwiches on the days she came to work. ‘White bread, crusts trimmed, Bick’s yum-yum pickles always in a cut-glass dish between them at the table’: these lunches had become a token of order and plenitude for Maria, a symbol of grace and permanence. For Mrs Ellington, whom Maria ‘had held ...
11 June 1992
Judge for yourself 
by James Pickles.
Smith Gryphon, 242 pp., £15.99, April 1992, 1 85685 019 6
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The Barrister’s World 
by John Morison and Philip Leith.
Open University, 256 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 335 09396 5
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by David Pannick.
Oxford, 305 pp., £15, April 1992, 0 19 811948 8
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... The absurdity of ex-judge James Pickles is not that, the son of a mayor of Halifax and himself an Oxford graduate, he rails endlessly against the domination of the Bench by the Oxbridge upper middle class. There’s nothing wrong with ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The Party Conferences

18 October 2017
... Never despair​ of finding diamonds in the dust. Sir Eric Pickles, until 2015 Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, isn’t the sort of figure from whom one expects or desires fragments of autobiography, but, introducing his internal review of ...


Robert Morley

7 July 1983
Downing Street in Perspective 
by Marcia Falkender.
Weidenfeld, 280 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 297 78107 3
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... but they use a different entrance.) To the delicious cream cakes, almost as much a feature of the establishment as the baked grapefruits marinated in liqueur with which dinner habitually commenced. Pickles and jams, she notes, are homemade and the brandy butter the best she ever tasted. No wonder she is disappointed when all this and much else besides comes to a rather abrupt end on the morning of ...
15 December 2005
Plat du Jour 
by Matthew Herbert.
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... Final Meal of Stacey Lawton’ reproduces the convict’s last words (‘I want y’all to keep your heads up, hold on and stay strong’ and so on) and refers to his choice of last meal: a jar of pickles. Herbert asked Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck at Bray to create his own variations on a theme of pickles, as possible sound sources. Blumenthal came up with an electric pickle, a pickle milkshake ...
19 February 2015
... be both Muslim and British, and that Muslims living here should not participate in our democracy’. If there had been any doubt about the true targets of the policy, the recent letter sent by Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, to British Muslim leaders telling them that they had ‘an important responsibility in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam ...
21 February 1985
Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen 
by Brian Masters.
Cape, 352 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 224 02184 2
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by Pickles.
Quartet, 289 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7043 2439 3
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Ritualised Homosexuality in Melanesia 
edited by Gilbert Herdt.
California, 409 pp., £19.95, October 1984, 0 520 05037 1
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... with a lay-clerk’. Here is the topography of the city of night, from the Bell in King’s Cross to Heaven, the electronic barn underneath Charing Cross which is Europe’s biggest gay club. Pickles’s queens appear to be encircled by some enchantment, an erotic delirium that hides the seediness surrounding them. It will be hard, though, for those who have never been caught in the sway of high ...
8 November 1990
You’ve had your time 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 391 pp., £17.50, October 1990, 0 434 09821 3
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An Immaculate Mistake: Scenes from Childhood and Beyond 
by Paul Bailey.
Bloomsbury, 167 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0630 2
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... equal though not identical. The wonder is not that Lynne died but that her husband survived. When suffering from dyspepsia he tried to reach crisis point via a midnight supper of cold pork, mixed pickles and potato salad, followed by cheddar cheese, beetroot and pickled walnuts, all washed down with inferior claret. ‘I slept like a baby and woke eager for breakfast.’ The first and most ...

If they’re ill, charge them extra

James Meek: Flamingo Plucking

21 March 2002
Salt: A World History 
by Mark Kurlansky.
Cape, 452 pp., £17.99, February 2002, 0 224 06084 8
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Salt: Grain of Life 
by Pierre Laszlo, translated by Mary Beth Mader.
Columbia, 220 pp., £15.95, July 2001, 0 231 12198 9
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... they realised they had to provide salt in its pure form for their beasts, for themselves, and to preserve food to tide them through times of famine (which would include the average winter). Hence pickles, sausages, salt fish, hams, cheese, sauces – hence, in fact, much of what is wonderful in food. There are ironies in this, as Kurlansky points out. These foods, once essential to prevent the ...


John Sutherland

4 June 1981
Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... disclosed in mournful flashbacks: it contains a pregnancy, a suicide attempt, a VD scare, an oafish seduction by the president of the ‘fuck of the month club’. Not much fun, as the late Wilfred Pickles would have said. It has been observed that Waterhouse’s formula in fiction has been to imprison a child’s bright imagination in an adult’s dreary grownupness. As with Jubb, Billy or the younger ...

Hatless to Hindhead

Susannah Clapp

1 May 1980
A Country Calendar 
by Flora Thompson, edited by Margaret Lane.
Oxford, 307 pp., £6.95, October 1979, 9780192117533
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... toiling over lavender-bags and pounding elderflowers into face-potions. But Flora Thompson doesn’t adopt the same positions as those who have currently elected in favour of candles and home-made pickles. She may talk disparagingly of the ‘lowlier sort of charabancers’ who slide through the beechwoods in their patent leather shoes and bring a gramophone to play ‘For ever blowing bubbles’, but ...


John Sutherland

18 November 1993
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 313 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 316 90688 3
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Against a Dark Background 
by Iain M. Banks.
Orbit, 496 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 1 85723 185 6
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... his cue from the article, a Radical Equaliser duly begins levelling the score in imaginatively vindictive ways, working methodically through Colley’s list. The judge (called ‘Jamieson’, but ‘Pickles’ is mentioned in a parallel context) is tied up and buggered with an elephant-sized vibrator; the pornographer stars in his own snuff movie as his veins are pumped with a pint of HIV-infected semen ...

Where are the playboys?

Robert Irwin: The politics of Arab fiction

18 August 2005
Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology 
edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi.
Columbia, 1056 pp., £40, June 2005, 0 231 13254 9
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... a lost land of lush orchards, ‘fragrant gum Arabic in rice pudding, sweet golden puffs of zalabia dough, the warm thirsty smell of roasted watermelon seeds, soft lupin seeds in brine, dripping pickles, custards scented with orange-blossom water’, where shrak bread is baked on a round iron griddle and doors are surrounded by honeysuckle blossom. But not all that was lost by the Palestinians was ...

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