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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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... 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 one had ever seen ...

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 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 to be the stable and benevolent repository of as much ...

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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... 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 dispute. Now, however, we can relive the tale, for Michael ...

Sorry to decline your Brief

Stephen Sedley, 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 being a traitor to one’s class. As the left-wing QC D. N. Pritt told the right-wing Labour leader Ernest Bevin, it was the only thing the two of them had in common ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The Party Conferences, 19 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 the Conservative Party’s performance in the 2017 election, he offered a gem, unasked: In my Whitehall office as a minister, over my left shoulder, facing visitors, was a photograph of Che Guevara ...


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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... 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 Tuesday, 16 March 1976. Harold Wilson, four times prime ...

Beware the Extremists

Conor Gearty, 19 February 2015

... 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 can be part of British identity’ surely put them to ...

Dennis Nilsen, or the Pot of Basil

John Ryle, 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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... 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-tech dance music to understand what is so alluring about ...

Short Cuts

Peter Geoghegan: On Greensill, 6 May 2021

... his time in government. But who’s checking? Responsibility rests with Acoba’s chairman, Eric Pickles, who previously served as Cameron’s local government minister and anti-corruption tsar. Pickles has been more willing to criticise civil servants than politicians. He remains president of the Enterprise Forum, a ...

Who they think they are

Julian Symons, 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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... 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 interesting part of the book ends with Lynne’s death. The ...

Ruling the Roast

David A. Bell: A Nation of Beefeaters, 25 September 2003

Beef and Liberty: Roast Beef, John Bull and the English Nation 
by Ben Rogers.
Chatto, 207 pp., £17.99, April 2003, 9780701169800
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... wounded American spirit like the famous ‘two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame-seed bun’. Yes, the burgers are assembled from the meat of dozens of separate animals, then flash frozen in a distant factory. Yes, the animals themselves are raised and slaughtered in abhorrent conditions, and stuffed with ...

From Go to Whoa

Sally Mapstone: Tim Winton, 5 September 2002

Dirt Music 
by Tim Winton.
Picador, 466 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 330 49024 9
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... whoa’ and join a cast of the luckless in Winton’s work, but there are particular echoes of Sam Pickles and his family in the magnificent Cloudstreet (1991). Sam’s father had termed luck’s malign workings ‘the shifty shadow of God’, and Sam knows to stay in bed on a day when he feels it hovering. Whether you can beat your luck or just have to live ...


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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... 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 hero of There is a happy land, Maggie has a rich ...

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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... 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 she regards them as a nuisance rather than a moral ...

Howard’s End

John Sutherland, 18 September 1986

by Howard Jacobson.
Bantam, 314 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 593 01212 7
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Coming from behind 
by Howard Jacobson.
Black Swan, 250 pp., £2.95, April 1984, 0 552 99063 9
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Peeping Tom 
by Howard Jacobson.
Black Swan, 351 pp., £2.95, October 1985, 0 552 99141 4
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... door and insert a letter between his buttocks. His most embarrassing moment, as the late Wilfred Pickles might have said. And the letter? ‘A bill from Heffers for the latest book they had sent him – F.R. Leavis’s Nor shall my sword.’ The story, as it continues, traces Sefton’s rise to the top of the greasy pole of academic life, represented by the ...

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