Geographical advisory: this post concerns a particular version of a paper product destined for the smallest room in the house, which may not be available outside the UK. This pitches the appeal of my post to an estimated four readers - well, four that I know of - but that has never stopped me from writing about topics close to my heart before. Or close to my...hmm...I think I would rather not spell it out.
During the pandemic, I have consciously tried to shop in an eclectic mix of food retailers, often at odd times of day, to avoid people. That is a pretty doomed undertaking, given that shopping for essentials is one of the very few extra-curricular things any of us can do at the moment. I heard a rumour that Dunelm Mill was open for the sale of what my friend dubbed 'essential cushions' and sundry bits and bobs to accessorise your home, yet I feel sure that the chewing gum by the tills cannot magically have morphed them into a food retailer.
My repertoire of shops currently comprises (in loose order of importance): the Co-op convenience store round the corner (but not when neighborhood Covid case numbers suddenly spike, as they periodically do!), Lidl, surgical strikes on M & S near closing time to bag the yellow sticker items), Home Bargains, B & M, Farmfoods, and Sainsbury's (Christmas only). I may have to venture as far as Stoke soon to pick up my books from my accountant (a legally permitted work reason!), which would put me in the orbit of an Aldi, but we'll see.
Anyway, back to Farmfoods. What is Farmfoods, I hear most of the four of you say? I could call it 'the poor relation of Iceland', though that would be unfair, and not the outright paradox you might think. For ex-Mr Bonkers tells me that Iceland has really come on in recent years, and that their Italian-themed celebrity chef-fronted ready meals knock M & S out of the park! Farmfoods is a Birmingham-based Scottish chain - yes, another apparent contradiction there - of 300 stores, dominated by frozen products, but based on my own observation with 30-50% ambient goods too. The company's belief in frozen food is impressively sweeping:
"Our specialism is frozen food and we believe passionately that frozen food is the best solution for most family meals."
The store is very well (as in unkindly) lit - not the place you'd want to go on a bad hair or skin day, say. It is very sparsely attended by shoppers (which is good), and has a slightly sad atmosphere, not unlike Lidl in its early days here, but with the stock in serried ranks of refrigerated cabinets instead of big cardboard boxes - or 'outers' as they are known in the trade. If like me you need to be a thrifty shopper these days, I commend the store to you...for specific things, as with Home Bargains and B & M - and as with M & S in fact, but at the other end of the scale in fanciness terms.
Before moving on to the nub of the story, I will briefly mention Farmfoods' three for a quid offers on biscuits, including Fox's, a similar one on chick peas, and the delicious Mackie's honeycomb chocolate for something like 79p, not forgetting the staggeringly good offers on 48 eggs, should you ever need that quantity. They are usually kept just inside the door, where there is a very real risk some unsuspecting punter will step on them on their way in. Yes, there are truly legions of bargains besides these - though perhaps avoid their grapes, which may turn to moist mouldy mush before you reach your car - but as with that item-recalling bit at the end of The Generation Game my mind has gone blank beyond the ones I have mentioned. Oh, and of course the very subject of the post, Nicky Elite. Well, paper products generally are a bargain there - including my beloved kitchen roll, of which I need to have at least six rolls in or I start to feel nervous.
Ooh look, I mentioned them in that interview with Birgit of Olfactoria Travels I referenced in my last post, and back then I see it was only two rolls, which tells you everything you need to know about rising anxiety levels in a global pandemic.
Staying with my last post for a moment, in my answers to those questions I lamented the way in which manufacturers subtly tinker with the formulation of products, usually in an adverse direction. We have all experienced this to our collective chagrin with perfume, and it is going on in lots of other product categories these days, as companies try different ways of skinning a profit, as it were. One key arena for this de-specing is loo roll - or 'toilet tissue' as I should call it, but won't, as 'tissue' sounds so prissy in our scatological context. Yes, Andrex, the soft behemoth of my whole life till recently - apart from my early childhood, when the evil apology for greaseproof paper, Izal, was the order of the day, or as I say, latterly, though thankfully to a lesser extent - has changed. It has several variants...oh my goodness, more than I thought - or thought even possible!
Gentle Clean (with puppies on it - fortunately no canine tongue action is involved in the cleaning process)
Classic Clean (their 'bog standard' version)
Natural Pebble (with a touch of cotton and no pebbles)
Supreme Quilts (I shudder at the mention of quilts)
Skinkind (with 'Cleanripple' texture and 'soft soothe prebiotic lotion' - WTF?)
Touch of Care (with a touch of lavender 'for that spa-like feeling' - ?!!)
Right, so whatever happened to old Andrex? You know, the soft, thinnish style of paper with a slightly raised line top and bottom like a margin. I have only tried the top two variants: Gentle Clean is fairly soft in fairness, but I really don't want puppies, while Classic Clean is definitely too rough. Strangely, I don't believe any of the above products contain recycled fibres, which was my first thought to explain the roughness. I would be interested to know if you have any experience of these or the other varieties, which in my view have completely gratuitous and counterproductive bells and whistles.
Now I do have some professional experience of 'toilet tissue' manufacture (eek, it slipped out!), having done a job on combined heat and power systems, which are used by manufacturers with water-intensive processes like paper making and brewing. I visited factories all over the country with the requisite technical characteristics, but it is the toilet paper and beer ones I remember. One of the former was in Cumbria, and rejoiced in the name of Iggesund; one was near Sheffield, and one on Deeside. The makers of Andrex were in Kent as I recall, but my memory is fuzzy as to whether I went there too. But anyway, that was only about 1991(!), so thirty years ago, and diddly squat help to me here. I have come very close to writing to Andrex since I noticed the demise of the classic design with the lines top and bottom, but never quite felt moved enough. So here I am blogging about it instead.
Then in my quest to find an acceptable replacement, I haven't actually looked very far, so again, all tips gratefully received. I have tried Cushelle (too thick, not that soft really, plus I don't want koalas on it either!), and Nicky Elite, these being the two brands that most frequently pop up on forums such as Mumsnet. Nicky Elite has the benefit of being ridiculously cheap, while being on a par in roughness terms with Andrex Classic Clean, say, which even has a similar pattern of little perforations. Though imho Nicky is too thicky, like Cushelle.
Nicky, though, has an added fragrance, which I would normally avoid like the plague (sorry if that is a sore point just now), but which turns out to be the best bit of Nicky the toilet paper. For it is a wistful powdery scent that reminds me vividly of Floris Snow Rose (my review here), or some other retro Floris scent in that vein - Winter Rose, the alleged wedding perfume of The Queen? No, that was sharper on account of its carnation note, so I will stick with my Snow Rose comparison, sketchy as it may be.
I see that the brand Nicky belongs to the Sofidel Group, headquartered just outside Lucca, Italy, but with 17 plants in 12 countries worldwide, including two in the USA (Ohio and Oklahoma), so I have no idea where my 18 roll packet was made. Sofidel also make the Regina and Thirst Pockets brands of kitchen roll, a paper product category about the texture of which I am strangely relaxed by comparison, happy to buy both the useless cheapies that can't soak up a drop of spit and the luxuriously layered varieties that are so stiff they could double up as absorbent kitchen flooring.
But yes, the fragrance of Nicky Elite - another bizarre juxtaposition given our subject matter! ;) - is more fine than functional. Elite, even! Yes, I would go so far as to say that Nicky Elite is almost more functional as a fine fragrance than a loo roll, hehe. And given that they discontinued Snow Rose a while back, I can't be quite sure it is that perfume Nicky reminds me of, but even if it is a false memory it is a good one.
Have you found the perfect loo roll? Have you braved the texture of recycled, perhaps?
And if you have tried Nicky Elite, do you think the scent is like a wistful whiff of something by Floris?
(Photo of a tottering pile of Nicky Elite I spotted in Home Bargains yesterday, but you can even buy them in Ocado! Farmfoods logo by Xeepo via Wikimedia Commons, Snow Rose photo via Flickr.)