back to article Guess who just bought Maplin? Dragons' Den celebrity biz guy Peter Jones

Irascible Dragons’ Den celebrity tycoon Peter Jones has scooped up the Maplin Electronics trading name, The Reg can reveal. An auction of the fallen retailer's intellectual property took place in the summer with PWC asking Morvan Fraser, senior manager for IP sales at Metis Partners to preside over the sell-off. Peter Jones, …

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"Running with the overheads of more than 200 stores across the UK ...and an inability to compete with online rivals also contributed to Maplin's demise."

The 200 stores were Maplin's best way to compete with online rivals. If you needed something now a quick trip to Maplin was more effective than waiting for an online vendor to despatch by the slowest possible route and/or lose whatever it was in transit and less annoying than having said vendor spam for feedback.

The downside of that was the price and it's questionable as to how much of that was due to the overheads of the shops and how much of it was due to the accumulated debt of those leveraged buy-outs.

Sadly, these days, another, more general, downside is the increasing rapaciousness of the parking vultures who treat all the shops on trading estates as bait. At some point anyone trying to run bricks and mortar shops are going to have to get strict with their landlords about this.

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You're right... It was convenient for us... somewhat. I live in Aberdeen, and Maplin was a 10 minute drive away with free parking right outside, so it was a simple matter to pop down to Maplin to get some solder, or a switch, or something like that that you couldn't really get elsewhere in a hurry.

It's not a convenient elsewhere though. In a lot of towns, you'd need to park in a multi-story (i.e. pay) and walk to the store etc, and it's at that point that most people would order from Amazon and save themselves the hassle.

Then there was the RIDONKULOUS prices of their tat. Outrageous prices on things like cables, Arduino shields and the like. It was always going to end the way it did.

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I can't say that parking costs have ever affected my shopping habits.

That said, I generally shop in big shopping towns, where there's tons of parking and I'm not subject to one guy with a paintbrush and a bucket being the only source of parking spaces.

You know what stops me parking more? Stupid places that don't take card, notes or pay-on-exit (when I can actually go and get some change without having to leave my car unpaid-for in a card park to do so). Pay-by-text schemes that are so unnecessarily convoluted that it's ridiculous (seriously... I text my plate to a number, maybe including a site number if you're too lazy/cheap to buy one DDI for each car park you operate - what more do you need? You can charge me for an hour and then text me in an hour's time to see if I want another hour).

I don't even care about walking a little. But I would never use a park-and-ride.

No, the reason I don't use Maplin is quite simple. Prices. Availability to me is not a concern. Amazon Prime Now will deliver anything from a UPS to a PSU in a matter of hours. Anything more urgent than that, I should have had it in stock already, or be able to cope without it.

But I always wander into Maplins whenever I pass one. My partners hated walking past one because they knew I'd always wander in and look at everything. And, literally, the last five years I can't justify a purchase in there. A "basics" mouse was costing something like £10. The RPi and Arduino kits were ludicrous (£60-70 each sometimes). Soldering gear was cheap-made but expensive-priced. Simple cables cost a fortune. And there was a ton of disco stuff. A ton of Christmas-toys. A ton of TV coax and satellite cables (who does that that often?). But you couldn't pick up an SD card for a decent price, or an SSD at all (that may have changed, but I gave up going in them eventually).

Parking didn't even figure in it. I'd probably pay parking just to go *look* in a Maplin's at most points in my life.

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Agreed. All the purchases that I can remember making from Maplin were largely because of convenience. However, they all tended to be fairly small, so even with Maplin's enthusiastic approach to pricing, the amount of pound coins passed over the counter was still relatively small.

Given the choice between paying £5 for a do-dah worth £2 and getting it now, versus going online and paying £2 for a do-dah worth £2 plus £2 postage/packing and a 2 or 3 day wait...happy to go to Maplin and pay their prices.

Multiply the value of the do-dah by a factor of, say, 10....then the online option and a wait time becomes more attractive.

To my mind, a large factor in Maplin's demmise on the high street was that there just weren't enough people in urgent-ish need of a plu/cable/adapter/whatever to bring enough cash into the business.

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I think the 200 stores were both a blessing and a curse for Maplin. Yes, they had the cost of running hundreds of small stores and god knows how many warehouses, as opposed to the few large warehouses Amazon have, but they also had the advantage that for deliveries, they probably had a store within a few miles of most of their customers (thus bringing delivery costs down), and also for the customer, it was good to be able to pop into the local Maplin and pick up an item quickly. Something which saved my own particular arse on several occasions.

For instance, a few years ago, I was asked, on a Friday, to get some documentation typed up for Monday. The notes I needed were on my PC hard drive at home. So, next morning (I was due to go out Friday night, and I think to work effectively, it's good to have some down time), I switched my PC on. Nothing. After a few minutes of trying various things, I noticed a strange smell. The PSU had blown. I was able to pop down to my local Maplin, buy a PSU, and get home. Admittedly, it was a crap PSU (I didn't have much spare cash, so had to go for the cheapest one I could), but it did work, and I was able to do the documentation I needed.

Had Maplin not been around, it could have been a very different story, Yes, I could have gone up Tottenham Court Road, but I didn't have the time, and I may not have been able to afford a PSU up there, on top of my train fare.

I actually miss the days when you could go to an actual shop and have a decent selection of PC hardware. For instance, I have some files at home I like to have available on the home network. I could need them at any hour of the day, and I tend to run backups at night. Unfortunately, the only computer I have with is suitable for the task is my main PC. I'd like to move these files (and the backup process) to another PC.

As the new PC will go in my bedroom, I'd like it to be relatively small, and certainly quiet. I've been looking at Intel Nucs. Now, before committing >£600 to something (the NUCs themselves are relatively cheap, but don't include RAM or Storage, which can add significantly to the cost), I'd like to see it in action. Can I find a shop that sells them? No.. And yes, I know that the core i3 and celeron Nucs are a lot cheaper that the i5 or i7 nucs, but I like to learn about different OSs, and rather than trash whatever machine I happen to be using, I prefer to use VMs. It would be nice if I could leave these VMs running without bothering my main machine.

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Mobile shortcodes ( eg: text hello to 80121 ) are ridiculously expensive to rent. You're talking thousands per month for a dedicated shortcode.

Normally companies will get a free/cheap keyword from an aggregator - in the example, you would only get forwarded anything prefixed with HELLO. But you could have HELLO1, HELLO2, etc.

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"Amazon Prime Now will deliver anything from a UPS to a PSU in a matter of hours."

Recent experience of having Amazon deliver stuff to a locker is that (a) they can't manage it reliably and (b) when they fail their software simply has no means to handle that except to tell you to complain if it hasn't shown up in a week's time.

And delivering to premises? Yes, they might deliver t premises but not necessarily yours. I've had the experience (not Prime - I avoid all unnecessary subscription) of having been in all day when a parcel was supposed to have been delivered. A couple of weeks later, when my neighbours returned from holiday, they discovered a card in their letter-box telling them that my parcel was in their wood-store (balanced on their bin - at least it wasn't in it). My gate is a few yards across the road from theirs with a house name clearly visible in 6" high letters (houses round here have distinct names - no confusing numbers for the innumerate).

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"I've been looking at Intel Nucs."

Raspberry Pi, Drive of your choice with USB interface, NextCloud. Job's a good'un.

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"I can't say that parking costs have ever affected my shopping habits."

It depends where the shop is in relation to the car park. My local Maplin was in an out of town centre trading estate. The estate has now garnered itself a bad reputation for fining anyone who comes near it. There are reports of people simply driving in there to drop off a passenger and driving straight out again being accused of over-staying. That makes parking costs, even for a "free" car park, a significant factor.

My current Amazon fiasco is because I decided to order from them rather than visit B&Q in the same estate.

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In the bin

Quite a few years ago I had ordered a large pair of Binoculars (the type you put on a tripod) of Ebay & when I got home one day the card said "Put in large box by front door"... yep, in the bin.

Good job it wasn't on the day they empty them!

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I would never use a park-and-ride.

Dunno where you live, but in most of the "big shopping towns", cities and the like that I've visited recently, park-and-ride either by bus or by train or by tram actually works out cheaper and is often more convenient than trying to park in a town-centre multistorey, where you first have to fight your way through town-centre traffic and then try not to faint at the prices.

The downside is that if you are carrying large bags, or happen to have a pushchair / wheelchair, some public transport can be "tight", but it's gradually getting better, even here in Wales where our dreadful old Pacers and Sprinters are soon to be upgraded with a mix of slightly newer trains, converted trains, trams and brand new Diesel and bi-mode units.

M.

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""I've been looking at Intel Nucs."

I have Cloudstack running on a Celeron one, and it's happy spinning up various VMs, as long as they don't need too much CPU grunt.

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hard drives attached to USB 2 on the Pi are not a good combo if you need any sort of performance.

There are a few SoC boards out there now that have usb3 or SATA for spining rust, or even m.2 for solid state, They are a little more expensive than a Pi, but not prohibitive, but a better option for NAS or a nextcloud install...

not that I have anything against the pi, I love them, I have about 10 of them scattered about performing many tasks where disk access speeds is not an issue, media players, vpn, pi hole, radius, mail.

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Anonymous Coward

>If you needed something now a quick trip to Maplin was more effective than....

Luckily I live near an RS counter so can click and collect.

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That's what I suspect Jones is banking on... the residual customer loyalty to a point...

Jessops surprisingly seems to cope ok after their resurrection.

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Amazon Prime Now will deliver anything from a UPS to a PSU in a matter of hours.

If you life or work in <BigCityWhoseNameBeginsL>, yes (OK, I work there some of the time). Out in the beautiful East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it works like this.

For starters, it's next day, not same day. Then....

Courier can't find you. Goes back to base. Tries again next day and this time is actually arsed to call you. So you give directions. Which you would have done in the first place if Amazon actually gave you a free text box against your account for delivery instructions, rather than 6 characters for a safebox code. Yes, I have suggested this a million times to customer disservice. So he finds you. Makes a note of directions. The next 4 or 5 Prime orders arrive smoothly.

That or the package just goes back to the sender. Calling Customer disservice makes no difference. Except for another months' free Prime.

Then Amazon changes the courier company they use for Prime. Rinse and repeat.

Note that they deliver to East Devon some of the time from a "local depot" in Bristol. Not Exeter. No, Bristol. Madness.

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@Doctor Syntax - Brick and mortar locations done right is a competitive advantage. But the old rules of retail siting are partially invalid. Plus you can not directly compete on price or absolute selection with someone like Amazon. So you have a valid reason for one to come to you rather than surf e-commerce sites.

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Had Maplin not been around, it could have been a very different story, Yes, I could have gone up Tottenham Court Road, but I didn't have the time, and I may not have been able to afford a PSU up there, on top of my train fare.

The glory days of Tottenham Court Road are behind it too (if they ever happened, think I missed them). And despite their "enthusiastic approach to pricing" (quite like that phrase), maplin at least had the prices on the shelf, going to the typical TCR shop you usually have to ask them for what you're after, probably great for those with deep pockets who like haggling, but less so if you're wanting to shop around. Yoyotech was nice, but departed for Basingstoke some time ago.

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" ...but it's gradually getting better, even here in Wales where our dreadful old Pacers and Sprinters are soon to be upgraded with a mix of slightly newer trains, converted trains, trams and brand new Diesel and bi-mode units."

Smile... Smirk... Titter... Giggle... Chuckle... Laugh... Fall to the floor in paroxysms of mirth...

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Park and Ride

Park and Ride in Cambridge has to use the same road as the rest of the traffic so the bus creeps in the same as a car would. So I just go an pay through the nose for the Grand Arcade parking. But I never go in there just for a quick visit to a shop, it's always a serious shopping trip with the family and a lunch out.

Using Amazon instead of Maplin seems a bit of a twist because when I started out in electronics as a schoolkid, Maplin was just a mail order business. With a written order form at the back of the catalogue.

Same thing at Jessops, was a mail order or drive to Leicester to visit the one big store.

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Re: Park and Ride

I'm sure I read that it is cheaper to pay a parking fine to park on the double yellows outside than it is to pay for parking in the Grand Arcade in Cambridge.

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Re: Park and Ride

I usually pay £8.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Park and Ride

I usually pay £8.

Eight quid for parking? I'd expect to be offered car parking and XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXX XXX with X XXX XXXX.

One of us needs to move, but since I can mostly park and shop for free, it's probably you needing to move. And where I live we've got HILLS.

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Anonymous Coward

No, the problem was we all walked into Maplin, laughed at the prices, and very occasionally bought something minor only because we needed it in a hurry. We collectively never spent enough money to support the 200 shops we visited.

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> if you're wanting to shop around. Yoyotech was nice, but departed for Basingstoke some time ago.

I live in Basingstoke and somehow I never knew about this?!

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Anonymous Coward

RS~?

And people say Maplins were overpriced!!

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Re: RS~?

usually pay £8.

Eight quid for parking? I'd expect to be offered car parking and XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXX XXX with X XXX XXXX.

One of us needs to move, but since I can mostly park and shop for free, it's probably you needing to move. And where I live we've got HILLS.

The Park and Ride is £8.50 for our group. There are plenty of free shopping options, but that's the price of Cambridge, and as I like Cambridge I don't mind sharing that cost.

I don't get the relevance of hills.

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Yes, TCR has largely become tat tech. Last time I was there (year ago) it felt like a pointless visit.

No more Lasky's or Proops....

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Anonymous Coward

"going to the typical TCR shop you usually have to ask them for what you're after, probably great for those with deep pockets who like haggling, but less so if you're wanting to shop around"

Remember that well from when I went to TCR to buy a VCR (obligatory Youing Ones ref - yes, I had a video) and basically every shop the conversation was the same

Q: I'm looking for a xyz-1234 VCR ... do you sell them"

A: yes

Q: what's price?

A: what's anyone else told you?

Q: How can I tell you what anyone else has told me if noone will give a price

... my sister had a variant of this when living on edge of Brixton and asked at local TV shop price of a TV they had and got answer "go to TCR and find the price there and we're £10 chearper"

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Re: Park and Ride

"Park and Ride in Cambridge has to use the same road as the rest of the traffic so the bus creeps in the same as a car would."

... but the real issue is that the Park and Ride and rest of the traffic in Cambridge has to use the same road as the Garnd Arcade car park queue so everything wairts until someone leaves the car park and the queue can shuffle up one car length.

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Multiply the value of the do-dah by a factor of, say, 10....then the online option and a wait time becomes more attractive.

But when you have to order those 5 or 10 different do-dahs from 5-10 different places, and pay S&H for each one, At that point the local Maplins-type shop (or RaidShack/RipoffShack for us yanks) becomes useful again. But RadioShit had become (obviously) shit some 20-25 years ago, it just took a long time for them to finally die.

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Amazon Prime Now will deliver anything from a UPS to a PSU in a matter of hours. Anything more urgent than that, I should have had it in stock already, or be able to cope without it.

Only if you're living in Downtown London (or downtown NYC or Seattle for us Yanks). I'm 2 hours outside of NYC, and even the cows don't deliver that fast.

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WTF?

Re: In the bin

I have a parcel bin, lockable, (bought from Amazon) will they use it - will they heck

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Pint

Well, best of luck to him...

...it's a pretty ballsy thing to do. Sadly, I can't think of why I would want to buy a product from Maplin, over say, Amazon. Amazon have literally everything you can think of. There's nothing a new Maplin can sell that Amazon can't.

At least he won't have the overhead of all the brick-and-mortar stores, so that's something. He should be able to run a fairly tight ship. He presumably already has supply-chain management nicely tucked up with his other companies (Jessops etc.) so I would imagine the Maplin site will tie into already established, running, and working back-office order management, supply management, and customer management systems. Another saving.

Still, it's a pretty ballsy thing to do. I wish him all the best with it. Respect for having a go at keeping a fondly remembered high-street name alive, albeit in a different form.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

Well, you know what I would do ... and Peter Jones you can have this idea for just 40% of the company, but you can reduce it to 30% in 5 years time if you have repaid me what I decide I'm worth... is run it with priority to the education sector. Create whole kits and lesson plans with add-ons and homework where parents can buy extra kit to get the extended marks with a school provided discount - keep that discount available as a Maplin educational member.

Embed it as part of GCSE and A-level coursework. Create books and course and provide them as off curriculum extras.

Push birthday and christmas gifts aimed at children and educational so that family members can buy cool things that have a good education slant.

Then push into extras for the school - tablets, projectors, PAs, lighting, security - with service techs and mobile installers, get on the LA procurement list as a preferred supplier.

Easy push, lot of money and you have to seriously screw up to be delisted.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

Nice idea, but the official STEM organisations, together with a band of suppliers, including big hitters like Farnell are already doing this with the Pi and micro:bit platforms, and simple electronics and robotics on the periphery.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

"Sadly, I can't think of why I would want to buy a product from Maplin, over say, Amazon."

How about the disgraceful way that Amazon treats the staff in its distribution centres?

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

At least he won't have the overhead of all the brick-and-mortar stores, so that's something.

But he does have a few Jessops stores. It seems to me that Jessops and Maplins could be quite compatible bedfellows. Maybe the stores wouldn't have the stockroom at the back staffed by a PFY who will happily dig out half a dozen BC109s, some stripboard and precisely the length of CF100 cable you need, but adding a Maplins-branded "gadget" section to the Jessops-branded cameras etc. section of a store might just work.

M.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

big hitters like Farnell

Yes, they've actually done it quite well too with their three slightly-differently-targetted brands of Farnell (decades-long rival to RS), Element 14 (educational) and CPC (gadget tat for the rest of us). Of course, despite the different "shop fronts", the stuff behind the scenes is identical, so you effectively target three different markets for the price of one.

That's not to say that there aren't other players in the market too. Companies such as Pimoroni, The Pi Hut and ModMyPi are very big on the education side, both re-selling and creating their own kit (despite their names, not just Raspberry Pis!), and suppliers such as Kitronic have huge ranges aimed directly at schools, all of which could quite nicely benefit from a bit of high street exposure, should Maplin like to do down this route as suggested by an earlier poster.

M.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

"Amazon have literally everything you can think of. There's nothing a new Maplin can sell that Amazon can't."

Amazon has a decent size selection in many areas, but it's far from comprehensive. You're better off with dedicated shops for all kinds of specialist stuff, even for a pretty broad interpretation of "specialist". Try getting bike parts, for example. Not exactly an unknown niche hobby, but aside from inner tubes and a pile of Chinese knock-off lights, you'll struggle to find anything of much use at all; even common parts and big brand clothing have pitiful selections easily beaten by small local shops, let alone the bigger online bike shops. The same goes for things like looking for specific books or board games, and all kinds of other things. And of course even when you do find things you want, it's rarely Amazon actually selling them, but just some other random store that happens to use Amazon as their online storefront - half the time they don't even use Amazon's delivery service.

There's nothing Maplin can sell that Amazon can't, but there are likely plenty of things Maplin can sell that Amazon doesn't. Who knows if it will work out in practice, but there's certainly plenty of space for specialist retailers next the the generics giant of Amazon.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

<gruff scotch voice> I'll give ye a quid for 99% of the company

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

Scotch is a drink...

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Happy

Re: Well, best of luck to him...

"half-a-dozen BC109s".

Blimey, that'll cost you six quid! (yes, I have a pile left over from way back too)

BC547's are 11p, get with the times!

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

2N3905, 2N3904.

Little black plastic packages. Such happy memories when these were enough to keep me busy and I had no other responsibilities. The smell of flux from leaded solder. Acetone based flux cleaner. Vero stripboard.

Resistors on a long ribbon strip, decoding their colour bands.

Sigh.

Now I can just put them on a SPICE simulator.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well, best of luck to him...

"Now I can just put them on a SPICE simulator.

Both SPICE and Maplin started in the early 70's

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

Anyone remember 'Home Radio' and 'Elelctronique'?

Somewhere in my extensive collection of Really Useful boxes must be their catalagues from the mid sixties.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

Both SPICE and Maplin started in the early 70's

Indeed, but visit to UC Berkeley were rare for British schoolkids in the 70s.

But a letter with a postal order to Rayleigh, Essex for the price of a second class stamp was within reach.

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FAIL

Re: Well, best of luck to him...

No, Whisky is the drink, Scotland is where some of it comes from.

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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

I do like those Scottish eggs though, with the sausage meat and breadcrumb shells.

What kind of hen lays those?

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