Go off-topic in the Lobby

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The Lobby is our off-topic space here on Which? Conversation. It’s perfectly natural for a conversation to go off-topic, particularly if you want to add some colour to a point you’re trying to make. When the conversation well and truly departs from the topic at hand, or if you can’t find a space to talk about what you’d like to discuss – the Lobby is a good place to start.

This is our fourth Lobby in the history of Which? Conversation.  The first, second, and third are still around, however are closed to new comments.

One key difference about this space compared to others is that the latest comments will appear on this page, but won’t appear in the Latest Comments or Latest Activity feeds.  As we noted in our relaunch earlier this year, contributors to Which? Conversation told us that people wanted it to be a place to learn and grow their knowledge of consumer issues. So we’re keen to better help people locate that knowledge and those discussions on the consumer topics they’re looking for.

We know having a space where people are free to go-off topic is important, however the comments posted in the Lobby don’t always help people to find the topics they’re looking for. You can see the latest off-topic comments in this discussion in the Latest Discussion widget on the right side of this page. Where comments are on topic as well, we’ll be actively moving them into matching discussions. Hopefully this should make peoples’ contributions easier to find, with less chance of comments being lost in the pages.

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Here you’re free to go as off-topic as you’d like – that is, in fact, why we’re here!  As with every discussion here on Which? Conversation, the Community Guidelines apply, so please do keep your comments in line with these, and aim to keep this space friendly, open, and welcoming to all.

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So, over to you – what would you like to talk about?

Latest comments


Thought for today

Q. What do you call someone who is addicted to coffee?

A. A caffiend.

Coffee can be very stimulating. I’m on my third cup of ground coffee this morning so I’m full of beans.

My gurlfrend lufes skinny lattes. She’s called Cafflene.

I was going to have a mince pie with my coffee but it disappeared. I suspect that de caffeine ate it.

Kevin says:
21 November 2021

Cafflean surely, if sticking to skinny lates?

Or is this mocha do about nothing?

You may need the Imodium later Wavechange 🙂

I would prefer another coffee.

I wonder at the purpose of Lobby 4 when only a very few regulars contribute – 7 on the previous long page plus Abby as a welcome returnee. Not that I have any objection; interesting views are exchanged. But it seems to either not reach or excludes other potential contributors, partly because current comments are not publicised and many will not, therefore, know of its existence.

It was set up for topics not touched elsewhere but, if they were, appropriate comments would be moved to appropriate Convos. So it is a Convo relevant to all potential contributors, I would have thought.

Also, ithas been suggested before that light-hearted contributions, that brighten our day, might be better placed in their own space, perhaps in a Comical Convo?

Am I on my own?

Not at all, Malcolm. I think we all have questioned the motives and reasoning behind this move. It is fine to produce a new Lobby now and then if the software here doesn’t support a continuation of the last one, (though why it doesn’t is not clear.) but why on earth mess around with the logistics and the operation of it? It leads me to suspect that Jon has been “got at” and made to change something that has become unpopular with the management. He has yet to fully explain the changes for any technical reason. I am puzzling as to the reasons why the Lobby has suddenly become “unpopular” – not with us, but with Which? I didn’t see anything particular contentious or challenging in our conversations here -no loose “canons” (or cannons) really. However, as I’ve said previously, the model for the rest of Which? conversation, is that someone (usually from the management side) puts a topic in front of us and invites a response. They are in charge, we respond. The Lobby turns this on its head and is, maybe, threatening because of this. So, they say “Let’s hide it somewhere and make it go away.” Well, I for one will continue to use it while it is here and I hope the rest of you do too. Let us ignore the restrictions and get on with our thoughts for the day while we can. That way Which? can not claim to close it due to under-use.

Yes 🙂

I am with you on this, Malcolm. I have been having similar thoughts.

There have been a number of threads in the new Lobby which have developed well and I expected to see them being transported to the relevant mainstream Conversation [or have one created specially]. But that hasn’t happened,

Continuity has been a particular problem here. It is almost impossible to see what’s going on in this benighted space unless you visit every hour because only four or five comments appear in the list. How others find it, goodness knows.

I shall carry on as Vynor implores but it is with considerable dissatisfaction. I really cannot understand why new comments in the Lobby cannot be shown in the main ‘Latest comments’ list; that’s the only change that is required


I have been sent two documents relating to agreements between a landowner and a charity that I’m a trustee of. I am instructed to sign and have witnessed two copies of each document and return them to the landowner.

I was going to sign and scan the documents and send them by email because no money will change hands, since the documents refer to normal fees being waived. Then I remembered that these agreements involve peppercorn rents: “The Annual Payment of one peppercorn per annum exclusive of Value Added Tax annually in advance from the start date.”

I wonder if I will get away with scanned documents and forgetting about the peppercorns.

There seems a surfeit of “annual” in the agreement. Sure it is not a scam? I’d check with the Confirmation of Peppercorn service.

It’s not a scam and saves us over £1k in fees per year. In the past I have complied and returned the signed and witnessed forms with four peppercorns for the two year agreements, plus an extra one to cover the VAT element. Maybe I could attach some images as confirmation of peppercorns.

The document has other dodgy wording, for example referring to their “principle office”. 🤣

Like a lot of legal language, you should take it with a pinch of salt.

Indeed. I won’t mention the name of the company involved but it has annual income in excess of £200 million. The first contact was to confirm that our registered office had not changed in the past two years. I informed them that it had, earlier this year but neither agreement has been updated. I despair.


I have £145 in paper notes plus and old £1 coin. Most of this was reserve cash but £26 was given in donations to a charity. I am expecting my bank to replace the paper £20 notes but probably not the £5 note and the £1 coin. Anyone else with old cash?

I managed to get rid of my £20 notes in September when I emptied my treasurer’s tin ready for the AGM. I believe we have until next September to do this. Sadly I expect the other old currency will be so much waste paper. That’s a pity, I’ve got ten bob I was going to use to fill up with petrol at the garage down the road.

A friend has offered to take my old notes to the bank. Here is what the Bank of England has to say: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/exchanging-old-banknotes

Ten bob indeed. I’ve kept some pre-decimal coins, just for interest. I have some Japanese ones with holes and they might prove useful as washers.

I had to buy some washers and they turned out to be dearer than using 10p coins. Apparently defacing UK coinage by drilling a hole through the monarch’s head is a criminal offence, arguably seditious, and possibly treasonous for which the penalty is beheading, appropriately enough.

We have a jug on the mantelpiece with a number of old £5, £1 and 10/- notes of different vintages stuffed inside for purely ornamental purposes. Breaks the ice at parties.

We also have lots of pre-Euro coins and Euro notes and coins left over from foreign holidays but at current exchange rates the notes are not worth taking to a bank.

A friend decided to take a break from science and bought a small pub in a very rural location. He had a good collection of fake notes and £1 coins that his staff had unwittingly accepted at the bar. Some were very good fakes and thankfully we have moved on to the modern plastic notes.

Our charity occasionally receives donations including foreign coins. Some may be mistakes, like old £1 coins, but the pile of Lithuanian coins was probably not.

I’d better not use the Japanese coins as washers. I have no yen to find out about the punishment.

HSBC replaced the paper £20 and £5 notes and the old £1 coin without question.

Composers are always looking for good notes.

Why? Has someone been taking notes?

Thought for today

There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those that don’t.

Learning binary is as easy as 01, 10, 11

For a while now Which? News has been dominated by Black Friday “deals”. Today it occupies 80% of the topics https://www.which.co.uk/news/. Is that really all that is worth reporting?

[Moderator: this comment originally appeared in the Lobby – we’ve moved it here as it was on topic with this subject]

One of the articles mentions how many people have regretted buying different products in Black Friday deals. Which? claims to be committed to sustainability, but it’s still the Consumerism Association in my view. I wonder how much Black Friday contributes to waste by providing an incentive to buy products we don’t need.

Thanks Malcolm. The first article was the one I was thinking of.


The above 🙂 has arrived here from elsewhere. It seems to have a mind of its own.

I think it quite common for extended warranties to be provided by D&G. If they do the job properly I don’t see a problem. It is just an insurance.

It’s interesting, because moving tranches of posts from here to elsewhere will seriously affect the continuity in here. Slowly but surely this place will fade away. Every change they’ve made to the Lobby has been to conceal it and its posts.

Just wish they’d be honest and open about it instead of hiding behind platitudes and false assurances.

Ian – I did think there could be problems with moving selected posts out of The Lobby. If we could discipline ourselves to set up headed discussions and post replies under these headings we could get somewhere, but that’s up to us. As it stands it’s difficult to move posts to an existing or new Convo.

I’m not sure that The Lobby will fade away if we use it, but we could do with more contributors happy to discuss a range of topics.

Trouble is, new contributors will quickly realise the emasculation that’s happening. Very sad, but we can’t say we didn’t know this was coming.

One of these days I might walk. I feel sorry for those who come here to discuss consumer problems and to ask for advice, yet their posts are often unanswered by Which? staff or other contributors. A simple example is the discussion about problems with Currys. Which? did report these problems to Trading Standards but there does not seem to be any recent action. We may as well have debates about mince pies, where everyone can make a useful input.

The posts in Convos might help Which? research but if they do it’s a bit of a secret.

Out of interest I periodically look at the Which? Members Club on Facebook. (I’m not going to get involved.) The discussions are usually short and friendly but lacking in depth.

For the time being I will stay here because I enjoy following up topics that we discuss.

Agreed, Ian [“Slowly but surely this place will fade away“]. I think this particular forum is heading for the cliffs as using it is becoming a pain.

With only five comments showing in the list of recent posts [inconveniently positioned under the Intro] I don’t think this new Lobby will ever be satisfactory.

To use an electrical analogy, we like to post to various topics in parallel across a number of Conversations and all our posts are trackable; with this version we are more or less having to post in series because it is impossible to find new posts on old threads. When the threads are also interrupted by stray replies to other lines of discussion the whole thing becomes an utter shambles. The only saving grace is the continuing supply of wisecracks, albeit they sometimes muck up the continuity.

Furthermore, you cannot find contributors’ posts in here under their names in the personal lists so nothing actually exists on the record.

Jon Stricklin-Coutinho tried to reassure us that things will get better in his recent post — https://conversation.which.co.uk/discussion/off-topic-lobby-4/#comment-1641061
— but rather than preserve this present rendition in aspic until that happy day comes I think it would be better to revert to the previous structure and format for The Lobby albeit starting with a clean sheet.

I am the first to admit that having a bunch of superannuated nit-pickers for company every day must be a bit of a trial and fairly tiresome at times, but at least the Regulars do have real conversations and not just submit a stack of disconnected one-liners. Attempts at generating continuing participation from those who respond to a prompt haven’t really worked and that could be because there is a need for a better approach to launching and sustaining Conversations with ongoing engagement from the author as demonstrated by Jane Bevis and Kate Bevan.

John, agree completely with your last sentence. In general, anyone who starts a Convo should monitor comments, research answers where necessary and respond.

It irritates/annoys me as well when a question is asked of a Which? member of staff and they do not bother to respond. I have moaned about this before but still have several languishing in the ignored box.

As far as transferring comments to existing, or new, relevant Convos I have no problem with that unless, as Ian says, continuity is affected. Why not simply copy the relevant comments across and leave the originals in place?

Kate and Jane stood out recently as model Convo originators. Would there were (a lot) more.

John wrote: “With only five comments showing in the list of recent posts [inconveniently positioned under the Intro] I don’t think this new Lobby will ever be satisfactory.”

Click on the small red arrow to the right of ‘Latest comments’ and you that gives access to the rest of the comments.

Thank you, Wavechange. I hadn’t spotted those arrows before because I usually work up from the bottom towards the most recent comment. Are the arrows a recent addition to the functionality of the Lobby?

Obviously, I withdraw my criticism in the second paragraph of my comment above.

The Lobby 4 started on 27 October and the red button appeared on 10 November: https://conversation.which.co.uk/discussion/off-topic-lobby-4/#comment-1640055

I commented that it did not work for me, but it did soon after. Clearing the cache can help when any website seems to be misbehaving.

Kevin says:
28 November 2021

hi Wavechange
I can’t see the red button, could you upload a screengrab showing it’s position?

New topic variant…
Looking for this post I was on the previous page of comments; clicking on the latest “Lobby” comments appears to be poorly coded – if the focus isn’t on the page with the referred comment, the browser just flaps about a bit and then gives up and goes to the end of the current page. I use Firefox so maybe it works with other browsers.

As has been noted by others, the Lobby is significant by it’s absence in the links under in the “All topics” drop down list. Having spent time trying to navigate the “New Lobby” to ask for the screengrab, I can’t help thinking it’s been consigned to [not so] benign neglect by Which. It seems to me that dealing with Which? is becoming a similar to dealing with some of the commercial entities who pay lip service to consumer involvement, but generally ignore any input from their customers with an irrelevant boilerplate rebuttal. I ended my longstanding subscription because of this and also what I saw as inertia selling of overpriced subscriptions to existing members.

If anyone reads “The Economist”, Bartleby last week had an interesting glossary of business terms (many of which could apply to Which? conversation), my favorites are “I hear you” (== “Be quiet”), and “it’s a legacy tech stack”, but several others seem quite relevant to the Which?averse.

Hi Kevin – Here is the screen grab:

At the moment The Lobby is well and truly broken as a result of some posts being moved into another Conversation at the request of a contributor. It’s driving me mad but I expect that Jon will sort out the problem on Monday.

When it’s working the red arrow will take you to an earlier set of recent comments and the one that is grey at present will become red. You will waste more time if you try it at the moment. 🙁

Kevin says:
28 November 2021

Thanks Wavechange, that’s cleared it up for me. Current Lobby musical e-chairs is a useful distraction from any booster jab side effects at least, perhaps they should use a blockchain…

No problem. Pfizer cost me a night’s sleep. Every time I turned over my arm hurt and woke me up. I’d like a different booster next time.

Those who developed and distributed vaccines have done a great job of saving lives and protecting the health of those many who accepted them, whatever the make. Side effects seem rare, but a little discomfort is a small price to pay for the protection they offer. I had three Pfizer jabs and suffered no reaction at all (except, hopefully, developing immunity). I am aware of others who had aching arms and some who, in addition, felt rough for a day.

Malcolm – When I bought the Miele washing machine from JL in 2016 I the website showed “Claim an additional 3 year guarantee at no extra cost”. I learned that this “guarantee” was 3 years cover with D&G. Despite repeated calls to Miele and delays, all I received was a three year certificate dated from the purchase date. I have three identical certificates. Miele did explain that the problem was because the model or serial number they had provided did not exist, but did not resolve the problem and I received nothing from D&G.

When I bought a Bosch dishwasher this year JL advertised “Claim an additional 3 year guarantee at no extra cost”. I registered the machine with Bosch and now have a five year manufacturer’s guarantee.

The only dealings I have had with D&G have been several nuisance phone calls and various postal invitations to buy warranties when I purchased goods from Comet. Last year D&G were given my phone number by Beko after I bought a freezer to go in the garage and registered it with Beko. Beko had already been told twice that I did not want an extended warranty.

Next time I am planning to buy anything claiming an extended guarantee from JL I will check that the guarantee is a manufacturer’s guarantee.

A Malcolm smiley seems to appreciate the daily jokes. It evidently enjoys living in the present 🙂

The 🙂 above (unless it sets off again) keeps going walkabout. I think it was originally a response to a comment of Beryl’s. While it seems be be enjoying its wanderings, and so a shame to annihilate it, perhaps the time has come @jon-stricklin-coutinho ?

Smileys back. Legal proceedings for harassment underway Malcolm

This would be harassment I think, Beryl 🙁 . Hopefully, until Jon removes it, the wandering 🙂 might brighten a chilly day?

(This refers to Beryl’s comment 17 comments earlier https://conversation.which.co.uk/discussion/off-topic-lobby-4/#comment-1641237 .Somethings seems wrong with this Convo?)

Jon Stricklin-Coutinho is having a laugh, along with the rest of us Malcolm 🙂

Nothing like a good laugh, Beryl 😀

”Which?’s pricing investigation also found that, when looking at the six months after Black Friday, almost all (98.5%) of the products across the six retailers were cheaper or the same price at some point during this period – suggesting that in some cases shoppers may be better off biding their time and waiting for the price of a product to fall further.

This, and the rest of the report, makes me even more baffled as to why Which? continues to publicise Black Friday (non) Deals when, in the vast majority of cases, they seem to just trick customers into buying stuff they may not need, probably not the best choice and apparently very rarely at the best price. It seems quite contrary to proper consumer advice.

Which? have said ”The value Which? aims to add here for consumers is to equip you to know whether products on offer are worth it and, if so, whether the price is a good deal as well.”. Clearly, as Which? also tell us that virtually all the products can subsequently be bought at the same price or cheaper this seems rather contradictory. No real point then in taking note of BF Deals.

It would be more useful if Which? told us about the companies that never hike prices for BF.

Here’s an interesting thought: “Acts of both good and evil are driven by altruism – and that is ultimately selfishness in disguise.”

From an analytical viewpoint that is no doubt true, but — fortunately for humankind — there is, in general, a preponderance of goodness over evil. As well as being an interesting thought it is also a rather cynical one. Even those with the most can still seem to be inordinately self-interested in their deeds, with an eye on a non-material prize either in this life or the next.

Hopefully Ian will give us an insight into what the recent article in New Scientist has to say on the matter. In the context of humans, altruism is a difficult concept.

By definition, altruism is selflessness. So a disguised selfish act was not altruistic?

However, I think when we do things for others, for example, that may make us feel good, I don’t think that is selfish in the wrong sense. I suspect we all do things for our own gratification and if both parties benefit that is good.

We see many acts that are bad reported in the news; extreme acts could be regarded as evil. But, in all my life, I do not recall knowing anyone who was evil. Like John, I see a very large preponderance of good, or at least, “ average”, people.

Like fraudsters, evil people who set out to commit atrocities are hard to spot in advance. Or, if they are, we often cannot act until the action is being perpetrated. So we have a reactive rather than a proactive response.

What I find disturbing is when a civilised country like the USA, that suffers gun crime, appears unwilling to even begin to change their gun legislation, lets people on the street with firearms and releases some when they kill people. A strange world.

Nothing is either good or bad, only thinking makes it so.


Assuming he wrote it 🙂

Thought for today

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

Or a bit of both.

I note Which? are running competitions on Twitter. I don’t use Twitter.

This is a précis of the full article regarding Altruism which appeared this week in NS:

““THE evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So it will be with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.” So said Judge George O’Toole before sentencing Tsarnaev to death for his part in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. During the trial, it emerged that the killer was well liked by his teachers and friends, had been compassionate to people with disabilities and had apologised to victims and their families. But, said O’Toole, his goodness would always be overshadowed by his hateful act.

Evolutionary biology has an answer, and it doesn’t reflect well on human nature. Acts of both good and evil are driven by altruism – and that is ultimately selfishness in disguise.

For a long time, altruism was a biological mystery. The prime directive of evolution is to pass on our genes to the next generation. Engaging in costly behaviours with no obvious survival pay-off seems to go against that grain. The polymath J. B. S. Haldane eventually twigged it: individuals mostly make sacrifices for close relatives, and hence help to usher copies of their own genes into the next generation. As Haldane put it: “I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.” Acts of true selflessness exist, but these are explained as reciprocal altruism, where kindness to strangers (who may in fact be relatives) is banked for the future.

That’s all good, but what about evil? Evildoers often see their acts as being for the greater good. This “pathological altruism” lies behind some of the worst atrocities in human history, including wars of aggression and genocide. The Boston Marathon bomber apparently thought that radical Islam was a good enough cause to maim and kill for.

We don’t come fitted with categories of people that are targets of our empathy or cruelty, says Steven Pinker at Harvard University, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why violence has declined. “Whether we’re good or evil depends on what side of the sympathy boundary a particular individual is found,” he says. That largely depends on whether we see them as part of our “tribe” at any given point. If we don’t, we can treat others exploitatively or instrumentally, says Pinker. “We can keep slaves, we can engage in ethnic cleansing, we treat people like vermin.”

Even members of our in-group cannot count on our good intentions all the time. Our sense of justice is often indistinguishable from our sense of revenge, so we can be cruel when we think a person “deserves” it, says Pinker. A desire for dominance can lead us to disadvantage those we see as standing in our way, he says.

But humans also have the capacity for self-control and, perhaps uniquely, self-reflection, which has allowed us to suppress or moderate some of our baser evolutionary impulses. Innovations such as the rule of law, courts and the police go some way to reduce our power, or our incentive, to disadvantage others for personal gain. The continuity and stability this provides to our societies is one reason why, contrary to popular belief, evidence suggests evil is on the decline, says Pinker – and means our good need not always be interred with our bones.”

Thanks Ian. I no longer subscribe to New Scientist because since I retired I don’t have many discussions with people interested in science. Altruism and its relevance to humans has featured in numerous articles over the years. It is very easy to see examples of selective altruism in action.

Ian, for a more scientific approach watch the following:

youtube.com – Eckhart Tolle – Did God Create Evil?

There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet, human unconsciousness. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”

With true forgiveness your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of Prescence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.

I am loving this 🙂

A very interesting and lucid explanation, for which, many thanks. I would extrapolate to discuss the phenomenon of people like the lifeboat men who go out to rescue others who have no connection with them. The simple act of helping a disabled person up steps or across the road or giving up ones seat to an older, more frail passenger. Investing in a green project even though the return will be less than a traditional one. Deciding to be a vegan for non dietary reasons. Choosing to nurse in a Covid ward. Altruism in every day life is not necessarily gene driven. Not everyone makes the calculation of benefit versus loss when being altruistic; not even subconsciously, unless feeling virtuous is a reward in itself.

Our PM seems convinced that wind power is the solution to our future electricity needs: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/uk-news/johnson-commits-160m-building-new-22016265

There is no doubt that wind power has made a considerable contribution to our energy needs, and helped reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but as I write it is providing only 9% of our needs because there is not much wind today. Although I can see considerable opportunity for saving electricity if we were all prepared to do our bit, it would be good to have some certainty about future energy supply. Perhaps Peppa Pig would offer some advice because power cuts are such a nuisance.

I used to think that there was always a strong wind somewhere around our coasts and if we just installed enough turbines on all sides of these islands we should have reasonable security of supply above the nuclear baseload and the less predictable contributions from sunshine and on-shore renewables. This is clearly not the case because there are several days each year when there is virtually no contribution from off-shore wind.

The floating wind turbine technology could enable a higher ratio of wind power by positioning in much deeper waters further off the western and northern coasts where the wind blows stronger, but even so I doubt it will give continuous reliability of supply and the power connection logistics [not mentioned in the article] could reduce the economic viability.

Over the last few days we have had plenty of sunshine in Norfolk but only for about six hours a day and not necessarily continuous, so solar power can only ever be a makeweight; nevertheless any amount helps and if any surplus can be used to make hydrogen, which can be stored for times of high demand, it would be more useful [although the process of turning electricity into hydrogen and then back into electricity is inherently inefficient].

I still cannot understand why we are not doing more to exploit tidal power and the tidal range of various estuaries. I appreciate there are some environmental and ecological concerns but I think the overall benefits of decarbonisation out-compensate for them.

I noticed the following in the Wales On-line article: “The business department said the strong winds in deep waters off Wales in the Celtic Sea presents a ‘major development opportunity’ for new farms.” I had not realised that the Irish Sea had been renamed, or is that just for the Principality’s benefit?

Indeed, the tide is predictable and water is a good energy source since it moves about easily and can be trapped. Gravity works in our favour and what is more, the water can be released when we want it and not as nature dictates with wind and sun. The Scottish hydro schemes have been going for decades without damaging the natural habitat. The sea has a reputation for destroying things in its path when it combines with the bad weather. That has, so far defeated attempts to keep it away from our vulnerable shores. I wonder if we have the engineering skill and the material available to build out there? If we did, both our crumbling coast line and our energy supply would benefit.


Tidal storage would give predictable power as has been discussed before. It will affect the environment but then so will a lack of balanced action. I suggest the environment and life in it would adapt to the change just as it has in the past to many coastal developments.

Wind is unpredictable, as is solar, and need supplementing with other forms of green energy to ensure we have both a reliable 24h supply, and also more than enough energy to supply our future needs and desired lifestyles.

Environmental impact assessment must be carried out before projects are allowed to proceed. Monitoring is required and mitigation measures may be necessary. Had environmental impact assessment been in place when packaging plastics were introduced we might have greatly reduced our current problems with plastic waste.

Environmental impact assessments do have to be carried out before any major development, but that does not mean that we have to accept ‘no impact’ as the prevailing standard for national infrastructure projects as some campaigners would like. Mitigation measures need to be taken where practical and economically justifiable. As Malcolm says, nature is very adaptable if treated sensitively. We have the scientific knowledge these days to do this sort of thing properly and safely for the protection of species.

It sickens me that environmental impact seems to count for nothing when thousands of acres of prime agricultural land in our area are turned over for new housing schemes of predictable ugliness, and great centuries-old trees that are important multiple habitats are sawn down on a Sunday ‘in error’.

Yes, we need to be careful, but in saving the planet from destruction by carbon pollution and overheating we will have to alter the balance of nature in some areas in a responsible manner. We’ve messed it up so we need to put it right, but we can’t turn the clock back to the pre-industrial age in terms of the population [unfortunately]. We are stuck with that, and it is still increasing and living longer, so we need to provide the energy required to sustain it.

John – Malcolm has frequently claimed that ‘nature will adapt’ to development but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, for example the considerable loss of biodiversity in the UK. Once environmental impact assessment has established the risks, we can proceed with caution and monitoring. All electricity generation has environmental impacts and we need to choose the least bad options. I do believe that the government deserves to let us know more about its strategy to keep the lights on but welcome measures that will further reduce energy use.

We are probably doing more damage to nature with our current approach than if we change to more sustainable and pollution-free measures. Environmental impact needs to consider our long term negative impact if we do not take appropriate actions. We need wind, solar and tidal energy if we are to support our future.

I agree and this is all part of finding the least bad options, although no form of electricity generation is is really pollution free. We know that driving electric vehicles does produce carbon dioxide thanks to a substantial part of our electricity coming from fossil fuels, but that will improve.


When I first saw modern products with an old fashioned appearance I was intrigued. Usually the working parts use less energy and take advantages of modern technology, though this can vary. I can understand why some might want to buy products that look like ones they used decades ago, but retro products can appeal to younger people too.

I assumed that this would be a fad that would soon be forgotten, but retro products have been with us for years. I don’t know if they are actively promoted by manufacturers because I avoid advertising. Perhaps the appeal is simply owning products that look different from the norm.

Not everything old fashioned is obsolete. We have been telling the time with a clock face and hands for centuries. No one has invented anything better than a mug or a cup to drink from. Brooms have swept floors and paths and the humble chair and the posh thrones have nearly always had four legs and a seat. Not much has changed with the water closet for many years and a kettle is usually the best way to boil water. Sometimes science stops bothering when something works well and doesn’t need altering or improving.

While thinking about obsolete items. I went to the bank this morning to get some money to pay our conductor. The beggars slipped three old twenty pound notes into the pack. I can imagine what will be said if I put those into his envelope.

I’m happy to continue to use old products that do their job well, Vynor. In fact I like holding on to old household goods that look outdated. What I don’t understand is the appeal of the likes of modern fridges, radios and other retro products that at first glance look similar to what we or our parents used in the past.

For some reason we get a number of catalogues that are stuffed with products like that. I assume there is a strong market for them. They are presented as though they will be of particular interest to the elderly who are presumed not to be able to manage new fangled apparatus. I saw an advert for a manual typewriter in one of them as if it were the wonder of the age! Many of the older folk we know seem to be very up-to-date with their gadgetry and appliances and usually go for modern styling rather than retro. They are often ahead of their offspring in their choice of consumer goods.

I have seen examples of these, John, but I’m thinking more of products that have similar functionality to older products but just a vintage appearance. I mentioned fridges and radios as examples but there are many more.

Different styles of products appeal to different people so it is not surprising styles used in the past are still “stylish” and appreciated for that. Just as some people like antique furniture, jewellery, clothing (that seems to go in cycles). And many like traditional rather than modern architecture, in housing for example – gables, bricks and tiles as used for centuries.

Of course and that has happened for years. Has anyone bought any retro household goods?

I did buy a retro-styled mains radio a few years ago because I wanted something with a bit more ‘presence’ than the usual plastic box, but the sound quality was pretty dire — despite a wooden cabinet — so we parted company a few months ago. The dial clock on the front was nice though.

I must say that if it were possible to get a refrigerator today looking as modern and stylish as the Electrolux one my parents had in their first home in the 1940’s I would have it for appearances’ sake alone — it worked very well and ran on gas! Unlike so many retro fridges that try to look like a deformed Studebaker motor car it had flat panelling, polished aluminium trim, and a well-designed interior; it was quite advanced for its time and probably one of the first Mid-Century Modern [or ‘contemporary’ styled] appliances available after the Second World War.

For fifty years or more, upright vacuum cleaners with a bag suspended on the handle hardly changed in appearance until the new cyclonic technology came along. I doubt anyone would want a traditional Hoover or Goblin machine now.

Maybe you were unlucky with the radio, John. It can be easier to make a wooden-cased radio with good sound quality and modern speakers are very much better than those used in old models. There is no reason that a retro radio using modern internal components should not outperform the design that it emulates but you are not alone in being disappointed.

The gas fridge that you mention used the absorption principle and this can still be found in caravan fridges running on LPG. It’s extremely inefficient, which is why home fridges use compressors. I expect that retro fridges (Smeg and others) are just as efficient as the usual square boxes. Nowadays we have retro fridge-freezers too, despite fridge-freezers being a more recent development.

John – Your mention of old vacuum cleaners prompted me to look for retro models. I did not find examples but there seems to be a great deal of interest in old models, particularly if they are in good condition. I suspect cleaners that float on air like the old Hoover Constellation might be popular as retro products because it’s a clever idea, although I would not want a cleaner that blows dirt into the air.

Our old Hoover needed a new rubber belt, that was formed into a figure of eight and took the drive from the motor spindle to the cylindrical brush, every so often so that it beat as it swept as it cleaned.
You can still buy Ewbank push-along carpet sweepers; not only retro but no electricity needed – just tea and biscuit energy.
And what about a first-generation bellows-operated vacuum cleaner ?

I would put the manual vacuum cleaners in the class of decorative ephemera that most of us have in our homes, rather than items of practical use. I have a nice binocular microscope that I bid £160 for when we had a clear-out at work. Floor sweepers are functional and my mum kept one in the kitchen to deal with crumbs without getting the vacuum cleaner out.

I have not given retro products much thought but I presume that most of them are bought with the intention of using them even if (like John’s radio) they are not very good. Apparently most retro record players are dire. I wonder if any retro products are Which? Best Buys. I hope so.

I was searching Which? Best Buys for a dehumidifier as a birthday present for my daughter, and was quite surprised to find most had the familiar old curved edges, very similar to 1920 – 1930s Art Deco period,

The oldest appliance, still on display in the kitchen, but no longer used, is the old Cono Coffee Maker, which I would never part with because of its unique design. These days it’s the more modern filter jug for one in use, but I do dislike cleaning it and assembling the fiddly filter bits back into place again.

The Cona coffee maker is an example of a familiar and attractive design, Beryl. I remember an earlier discussion and someone posted a photo or provided a link. My family have a well known design of vintage coffee maker that might impress steampunk enthusiasts, but it’s hardly practical and just for decoration.

I wonder if dehumidifiers have curved edges to protecting shins.

The danger with Cona and other coffee makers that use a hotplate to keep it warm is that the coffee becomes more and more bitter and unpalatable if it resides there for any length of time. Cowboy films often show a pot of coffee sitting permanently on the wood-burning stove in the Sheriff’s office. That would be real retro coffee.

Malcolm, this is the way it’s done.

I’m inviting everyone to join me for afternoon tea, if it’s not too late!

Youtube.com Japanese Tea Ceremony: A Moment of Ritual/TEA LEAVES

Thank you Beryl. I seem to be out of the habit of kneeling. 🙁


malcolm r says: 23 November 2021
There has been discussion in the past of putting contributors off by rather unfriendly responses

True, but his sarcastic and rather high-handed response to one of the best writers in the Which? firmament did, I thought, merit a response couched in similar terms and with a similar emphasis.

As we’re unfindable, I’ve posted this in here. It probably wouldn’t hurt if we all did the same in future. 🙂

Thought for today

A zen student asked his master “Is it OK to use emails?”

“Yes” replied the master, “but with no attachments.”

UK government announces crackdown on insecure products

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/11/uk-government-announces-crackdown-on-insecure-products/ – Which?
“‘The government needs to ensure these new laws apply to online marketplaces, where Which? has frequently found security-risk products being sold at scale, to prevent people from buying smart devices that leave them exposed to scams and data breaches.’

Indeed. But just as important – maybe more so – we want online market place hosts, like Amazon, to also take full responsibility for the safety of the products they “facilitate” the sale of, as well as security.

“A new regulator will be appointed to oversee the new rules, and have the power to fine companies for non-compliance up to £10 million or four per cent of their global turnover.” That might be an incentive. But how realistic is it? Difficult to impose on an overseas company, particularly in certain parts of the world from where these products might emanate. This is why the UK-based sellers and facilitators need to be targeted.

Electrical Safety First have a petition to ask the Government to introduce legislation to prevent unsafe products being sold through online market places – https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/stop-the-sale-of-dangerous-electrical-goods-on-online-marketplaces/

Which? also have a campaign – https://campaigns.which.co.uk/tech-giants-responsibility/

Maybe such campaigns could be coordinated / combined so that they show as many signatures as possible – or maybe they are?

I agree. I mentioned the ESF petition long ago, after I had ‘signed’ it.

Which? Conversation

I like the new facility in the ‘Latest comments’ list in the mainstream Conversation. You can now classify the comments according to topic [a drop-down menu is at the head of the column]. It just needs one extra category . . . the Lobby!!

What’s happening with hyphenation at the ends of lines in Which? Conversation? Some words are being split in a most ridiculous manner with just two letters on one line and the others following below. In no places have I seen any lineage being saved, so what’s the point?

For example, on this page we have “de-sire”, “estu-aries” and “dam-aging”. Some of these unconventional separations actually cause the reader to hesitate and re-read a sentence.

Another point . . . Is there a good reason why contributors’ avatars in the ‘Latest comments’ list have been compressed or minimised to the point where they are no longer recognisable because only the central portion is shown?

I no longer see any avatars in the five Latest comments in The Lobby. The cuckoo has flown and the QR code is no more. The avatars used to be square before corners were cut.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho Thanks Jon. While you are here, please could you look at what I posted before, in what I believe is still the right place for website issues: https://conversation.which.co.uk/which-membership/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/#comment-1640960

There are plenty of examples of this, including the odd one with Alfa’s cartoon about the problem. The disconnected comments can look like replies to unrelated posts.

In a series of salami slices we are progressively being reduced to insignificance before total elimination. Echoes of Germany in the 1930’s. Same mentality.

PS — Crossed with Jon’s note above; still worried though.

I’m all for experiments and if they don’t work, hopefully we can return to what we had before. In the early days of the new Lobby (2015) Patrick tried three levels of comments rather than the present two. That could be useful but was discontinued because it was causing confusion.

Thinking back to when Conversation first appeared there was no facility to view Recent comments except from the three on the homepage. We have moved on a lot.

Hello all. I’ve been a Which member for years but was unaware of the lobby. I’ve just been on the Convo site to post about electricity companies not paying those of us with FIT contracts with our solar panels. I had a wee browse and discovered this. I also discovered when I went into my settings that all my preferences had been wiped. No wonder I wasn’t getting many emails from Which?

Some interesting thoughts on here and few little things to make me smile – and don’t we all need to smile from time to time!

Hi Bieldman and welcome to The Lobby, where you can discuss anything without being off-topic. We often have some rather childish humour here.

As far as I can recall there is only one Conversation. about the FIT. Those who signed up for the FIT did very well.

…and congratulations for having found this place…

I though at first there might be a prize for this achievement in one of Jon’s twitter competitions. Sadly not. But welcome Bieldman. Would a FIT watch keep an eye on those contracts?

Thanks for the welcome. Some who signed up earlier to FIT will have broken even and should now be getting some reward for what was a significant long term investment. My investment is on track to break even in about another year and bit but those who only signed up relatively soon before the scheme ended will still be several thousands of pounds out of pocket. It is therefore pretty important that we get paid for the green energy we are producing. For those who have now recouped their investment costs, one might wonder if they would have been better off putting their £20k into the stock market.

If only!

Those who installed solar panels in the early days were rewarded, but at the time it was uncertain how long they would last or if better ones would be available in a couple of years. The FIT kickstarted the move towards installation of solar panels on homes. I fear that the next incentive could be rising electricity prices.

Early adopters of electric vehicles have not done so well. Grants were available but later withdrawn for hybrids and grants for charging point will end soon. From an economic point of view, buying an EV might not be a good idea but for those who drive in cities there is a considerable environmental benefit. The enlarged London ULEZ means that those driving old vehicles have to pay a daily charge

I cannot remember if solar panels were marketed as a worthwhile financial investment, Bieldman. It would be interesting to know.

Thought for today

Q. Why does a squirrels tail grow from its back.

A. Because there’s a squirrel in the front.

I know that squirrels have tails on their backs, but what fur?

Just to add balance, wavechange:
So B. Potter could write a tail of Squirrel Nutkin?

I’m not sure about squirrels but it has been known for the tail to wag the dog.

I think that’s an old wives’ tail, Beryl.

Thankfully no longer one of those Malcolm 🙂

Those who like to live in the past should try baking a current cake.

Maybe some nice person will give them a present.

Maybe some time in the future.