Category Archives: humour

Harry Potter A History of Magic wandmakers

Harry Potter and the real wand-makers

sixpenny-large-carved-vineOne of the surprises of the recent BBC documentary Harry Potter: A History of Magic (repeated on Christmas Day) were the two real-life wand-makers from Kent.

Dusty Miller XIII and XIV are Master Elfin Craftsman from the “Saelig Silverdobbs”, a tribe which lived in Great Britain since the last Ice Age. Together they make “unique handcrafted magickal Tools which inhabit a benevolent Tree Spirit”.

The long line of family craftsmen goes back hundreds of years and the Millers have the same given name handed down from one generation to the next.

Dusty XIV explained: “We work for the tree spirits so they tell us where to go to collect a piece of wood and which tree to collect it from. “It’s all very complicated and often involves getting up in the middle of the night to be in the forest at daybreak.

“Why it always has to be daybreak I don’t know. Why can’t it be lunchtime?” he asked. “Trees don’t have lunch,” retorted his father, Dusty XIII.

The Millers sell their wands all over the world for a variety of magical and healing purposes. Kent wand-makers: Wood you believe it?

Harry Potter A History of Magic wandmakersThe Wand-makers BBC website

So many wand-makers in the UK

A quick Google search reveals lots of rival wand-makers in the UK. It seems there is a demand for this niche product way beyond Harry Potter memorabilia.

Thornfield Handcrafted Wands

Thornfield Handcrafted Wands

Daniel and Daniel

Daniel and Daniel

Spirit of Old

Spirit of Old

British Originals

British Originals

And we must not forget our American cousins, who also have a variety of wand-makers including the wonderfully named Acme Wand Supply Ltd

Acme Wand Supply


Paris – the place to try a Frog Burger

My favourite business names are ones that have a built-in sense of humour (Dry Patch and Ass Saver). So I was delighted when I first came across a Frog Burger pub in Paris.

I love the way the owners have turned an historical negative term for our next-door-neighbours across the ‘English Channel’ (La Manche to the French) into a marketing success.

This is all part of the revolution in French eating that has seen ‘Le Burger’ rise to the top of the menu across France. ‘Le burger’ now top selling dish in French restaurants

Below are the current variations on the brand, with my favourites being The Frog & Rosbif and of course The Frog & British Library.FrogBurgerTHE FROG & ROSBIF




The Ass Saver that stops you getting a wet bum on your bike

Ass Savers logoSo many entrepreneurs I meet want to have a name that describes what their product does. But ironically the UK IPO may not allow you to register a name as a trade mark if “it is a descriptive word or term.”

For example Apple Inc would not be allowed to register their trade mark for fruit, as it would block everyone else from using the word apple. Much better is come up with a clever play on words that gets across what your product does. Even better if it achieves it in a fun way.

Now that autumn is here in London, it is time to think about trying to stay dry when travelling around the city. I wrote about Dry Patch – A BIPC success story with a great sense of humour a while ago. But more recently have spotted quite a few of these on my commute to work.

Ass saver

The name Ass Savers may not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly is short, simple and memorable – the most important aspects of a trade mark.

So far the owners have only registered the name under Nice Class 12, Vehicles and Conveyances for Bicycle mudguards. So it looks as though they aren’t ready to take over the world with their brand just yet.

Update! 24 October 2017

One of our clients designer Roderick Brosse at the Business & IP Centre has just won the the top award at this weekend’s British Invention Show with a minimal mudguard. His “Mud Bug” won the Diamond Award for British Invention.

Roderick has yet to find a manufacturer for his impressive invention, so watch this space.


The shoelace knot that never comes undone

Today there was an item on the BBC news about a scientific breakthrough in understanding why shoelaces come undone – Mystery of why shoelaces come undone unravelled by science.

FinishedSecureKnotHa! I thought. My shoelaces never come undone, thanks to a discovery I made about 15 years ago. The knot is called Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot after the inventor Ian Fieggen, now known as Professor Shoelace.

As you will discover from his website, Ian is obsessed with shoelace knots. But it is the Secure Shoelace Knot (also known as the Seaman’s Shoelace Knot) that stands out for me, as it simply never come undone. It also prevents wear on the laces giving much longer life. So it saves annoying undone laces and having to buy regular replacements.

I strongly suggest you try this wonderful life-hack, and let me know how you get on. Here is a video with Professor Ian demonstrating how to tie it.


A name that is well and truly tasty

On my regular drive to my parents house I pass several food vans catering to the hungry driver.

Their names vary from the mundane Joe’s Food Shack, to the humorous such as Mrs Doyles, which alludes to the iconic character appearing in the legendary Father Ted comedy series.

Source Channel 4

But my favourite is a tiny little white van with a bright red Yummy’s logo and a 1950’s style waitress winking out at the passing motorists. When you add in their strapline Well Tasty, I think they get credit for an effective promotion in a competitive market.


Visit to the small but perfectly formed Cartoon Museum

cartoon-museum-logoLast week I joined in with the LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) visit to the Cartoon Museum.

For several years I had walked past the building in Little Russell Street, just around the corner from the British Museum, on my way to work. So I was curious to see what was inside.

After a short introduction from the director and some typically ‘info-pro’ questions relating to copyright of the collection, we were free to explore the exhibits.

Downstairs I took in the permanent collection of historical works from seminal cartoonists such as Hogarth, Gillray and Cruikshank. Coming up to date with some hard-hitting images relating to the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Source Wikimedia


Next was the current featured exhibition Heckling Hitler, with cartoons and comic art from World War II. There were some classics by David Low which you can view on the British Cartoon Archive.

In addition were some famous government propaganda posters from the time, including Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, Careless Talk Costs Lives and Doctor Carrot the ‘children’s friend’.




On the way upstairs I stumbled across a short video from Simon’s Cat. This creature was a new discovery, but this example was a brilliant reminder of my own cat’s ruthless methods of getting my attention.

Upstairs was a wonderful collection of original drawings from the likes of Dennis the Menace, Dan Dare, Rupert Bear and Roy of the Rovers. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar sight from my youth. On closer inspection it turned out to be a page from the Trigan Empire, which appeared in my childhood magazine Look and Learn. An unexpected blast from the past.



I would strongly recommend a visit to the museum if you get the opportunity.

The Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell St

It’s Valentine’s so add romance to your life with a 2-stroke candle

flyingtigermoto-475x443I’ve just popped out to the shops to find a suitably romantic card in time for Valentine’s day tomorrow.

It is always a mistake to expect something in return, but it certainly would be a big surprise if I found one of these Two Stroke Smoke Candles waiting for me at home.

It must rank towards the top amongst the niche products I have come across over the years. And sadly, thanks to emission regulations, the smell of two-stroke engines is becoming a very rare thing (in the west anyway).

Of course I do have my own supply of the smell to hand in the form of my treasured Kawasaki KR-1S.  But I am ashamed to admit that it rarely makes it out of my garage to be fired up in all its smoky glory.

But now thanks to Flying Tiger Motorcycles I can relive the two-stroke smell from the comfort of my sitting room by  for only $20 US Dollars. Although to be brutally honest, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want have that particular smell following my around my home.

Two Stroke Smoke Candle

The one and only original! Super awesome custom blended 2 stroke smoke candle. It’s made with real live Klotz 2 stroke oil with high-octane fragrance.

We have reformulated the candle and are using metal cans with an awesome new label; however, the wood wick and 16 oz of wonderful soy wax stay the same.


Have breakfast all day at the Cereal Killer Cafe

Cereal Killer Cafe logoAs you may have guessed by now, I love niche products and services. The ‘nicher’ the better as far as I am concerned.

So how about a cafe in London that only sells cereal? Well, identical twins Alan and Gary Keery from Belfast, have just opened Cereal Killer Cafe in Brick Lane, in trendy East London.

Apparently the the idea came to them when they were hungover one morning and really craved breakfast cereal.

They offer British, American and global cereals all at £2.50 for a small bowl with a choice of milks and toppings such as banana or marshmallows. Also on the menu are what Gary calls “cereal cocktails – mix different cereals together with different milks and toppings to create different flavours.”

Gary is confident that people won’t just come for breakfast: “Many people eat cereal throughout the day as a snack or a meal … we will be open until 10pm.”

Slightly worryingly they didn’t have enough takers when they tried to crowdfund the project. The publicity, however, enabled them to get a loan and a sympathetic landlord.

Alan and Gary Keery - Cereal Killers

Gary (left) and Alan Keery at their Cereal Killer Cafe



Here is a niche within a niche… Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons in a box.

My new favourite trademark… Magicman

MagicmanLOGOWhilst enjoying my ‘mindful commute’ on my Brompton (as recommended by the Evening Standard – How to have a mindful commute), I spotted a van with my new favourite trademark – Magicman.

I had a quick search on the UK IPO trademark database and was relieved to see it was registered to Magic Man Limited under class 37;
Maintenance, repair and restoration and resurfacing of all (i) surfaces, cladding and facades (in each case both internal and external) including but not limited to ceramic tile, stone, stone resin, marble, granite, wood, laminate, uPVC, plastic including but not limited to thermosetting plastic, glass and powder-coated surfaces and (ii) fittings including but not limited to bathroom and kitchen worktops, sanitaryware, floors and doors; glass scratch removal; plumbing; general commercial and domestic repairs.

Magicman and van

Surprisingly there is only one other use of Magic Man on the database. It is owned by Dieck & Co. Erfrischungsgetränke OHG, and is used for;
Class 32 – Beers; mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks; energy drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages.
Class 33 – Alcoholic beverages (except beers); alcoholic mixed beverages and alcoholic energy drinks.

Even more of a surprise was only finding one reference to ‘magician’ on the database, which is now dead, but was owned by Branston’s Limited, and used between 1948 and 1997.

Magicman has plenty of examples on their website of their ‘magic touch’ to “repair, renew and restore”.




Fracking with the F-word on the Battlestar Gallactica

battlestar_galactica_logoOne of the ways I try to ameliorate the boredom of my five hours of daily commuting is to distract myself with entertaining TV shows.

I have always been a fan of Science Fiction, and still remember watching early Doctor Who episodes from behind the sofa in my youth, and revelling in the cult trash of Blake’s Seven in my teens.

So I was aware of Battlestar Gallactica, but was confused by very mixed reviews of the series. It turns out there were two separate versions of the series, with a rather weak original from 1978, followed by a far superior ‘reboot’ from 2004.

The premise of the series is a familiar one from the annals of Sci-Fi. Robots developed to serve humankind develop consciousness, rebel and go to war against their masters. The Battlestar Gallactica version of this story takes place far into the future, after we have left earth and colonised distant space.

It follows on from 40 years of peace after a bloody war against the Cylons. Needless to say the Cylons (dismissed as ‘toasters’) have not been idle. They have spent the time infiltrating the human defences, using replicants (referred to as ‘skin jobs’). When their offensive finally starts the consequences for the human population are devastating, with billions wiped out in a nuclear apocalypse across the 12 colonies.

A mere 50,000 manage to escape destruction in a rag-tag collections of space-ships under the protection of a rather long in the tooth battlestar (think rusting old aircraft carrier), under the leadership of retirement ready admiral Adama. Their desperate hope is to find a new home in the now mythical planet of earth, whilst avoiding any run-ins with the vastly superior fire-power of the Cylon fleet.


So far so straightforward, with the addition of lots of fighting to keep things from getting dull. However the writers manage to take the story to the next level by exploring the overlaps between human intelligence, and these newly created sentient beings. For instance the many of the humans have a belief in their ‘old gods’, but this is trumped by the Cylon’s much stronger faith in their one god. They firmly believe it is their destiny to discover and repopulate earth, instead of the humans.

In one episode the humans are shown to be capable of an ‘inhuman’ level of cruelty to a flesh and blood Cylon. An ongoing theme concerns the humans who fall in love with ‘skin-jobs’ and vice-versa. Each being perceived to have betrayed their community. One case even leads to the birth of a human-cylon hybrid child, over whom both sides contest ‘onwership’.

As you can see, the four series of the show has kept me entertained with rapt attention over the past few weeks. But that is not the theme of this blog post…

For many years I have been aware of – and irritated by – the way American television programs are so prudish. Having been used to hearing swearing on British television since a teenager, it always seemed odd to have hard-hitting US programs limit themselves to the occasional mild obscenity. The notable exception to this rule is the HBO subscription channel, who have produced such wonderful series such as Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Game of Thrones.

So, I was shocked to hear the F word uttered in the very first episode of Battlestar Gallactica. How were the makers of the show allowed to do this on American network channels?

But when I started listening more closely I realised the F word being used wasn’t ‘fuck’, but ‘frak’. Thanks to the hard work of some dedicated viewers it is possible to hear every frack voiced during the show on YouTube.

As you can hear, the word is used in all of its rich and varied contexts and meanings. Needless to say Wikipedia has a whole page on the use of frak and fraking in the series, and difference between the ‘frack’ used in the earlier version of the show.

At first this substitution seemed ridiculous. But after a while it began to seem natural and didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the series. In fact it enhanced the ‘believability’ of the show. After all, people do swear a lot in life and death situations, and the military are famous for their sweariness.

So if you do get the chance to watch this epic series, which according to a friend was a “life-changing” experience, listen out for lots of fraking and try not be offended.