Victory Victoria

8 Jul
Maltesers

Maltesers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a treat for you today – a guest blogger!  Her name is Kate Shrewsday and she and I have been following each other for a long time.

Kate has a wonderful parlour trick: she can take two disparate subjects and link them so that they make one interesting post…Batman and aqueducts; sharks and cats; death and Debussy.

She knows the value of a hook – that first line of writing that grabs the reader and keeps them reading.  My personal favourite: Everyone loves a cross dressing lady sailor.

I gave Kate what I felt was an impossible challenge: link Maltesers and Queen Victoria.  She was back in a couple of days with a So you think you can beat me, Mrs Wrong… and the following post.  It’s hard to believe there was ever a time without Maltesers, but Kate has unearthed that disturbing fact.

Enjoy the post!

Then go and visit her blog; I’m sure you’ll like her.  Who wouldn’t like a burping woman?

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Queen Victoria (State portrait) by Sir George ...

Queen Victoria (State portrait) by Sir George Hayter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a well-documented fact that the quick fire humour of the Laughing Housewife is fuelled by small spheres of malt, covered in a thin coating of chocolate.

The Malteser, created in 1936, is iconic. It is moreish in much the same fashion as that Wonka bar of fictional fame, and might as well be made by oompa loompas, for all we know, for the company – Mars Incorporated, a family concern – is notoriously schtumm about its methods.

 
In 1993 The Washington Post, the paper which broke the Watergate scandal, congratulated itself thoroughly on being able to send a reporter into an American Mars factory to witness the ‘M’ being painted on an M&M.
 
It’s all very hush-hush. And I should know: I live not far from the mysterious British industrial cathedral which fills lorries with Maltesers and speeds them up the M6 to Stockport.
 
You may have heard of it. The birthplace of the British Malteser is Slough.
 
English: An aerial view photograph taken over ...

English: An aerial view photograph taken over the infamous Slough Trading Estate in Slough, Berkshire. United Kingdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A barren industrial wasteland,  Slough earned the poet John Betjeman’s scorn: “Come friendly bombs and rain on Slough,” he intoned famously; “it isn’t fit for humans now.”

 
It is, but it ain’t purdy. Concrete, a mix of new shopping paradise and tired old parades, it goes on for mile after relentless mile, with little to persuade one to tarry.
 
It has not always been a concrete jungle. It was once known for something very different from Ricky Gervais, and Forrest Mars’s chocolate factory.
 
Its fame stemmed, back then, from a lady who was rarely amused.
 
Her nearby gaff at Windsor Castle had long been a place to which dignitaries flocked. Even in Shakespeare’s time the visitors were much in evidence – one glance at The Merry Wives Of Windsor will show you the extent of the bustle.
 
But Queen Victoria was not just a queen, she was an empress.
 
And an empire’s worth of visitors: that’s a lot.
 
They came from all over the British Empire to visit her by invitation at Windsor Castle. But there was an awkward problem.
 
The castle wasn’t particularly comfortable. It is said its design, and formality, were stuffy: and the Queen had a suspicion of gaslight and would not tolerate it. It was strictly candles-only at Windsor Castle.
 
And so, furtively, visitors began to book hotels: just down the road, in a conglomeration of villages which gathered around the Great Western Railway station which opened in June 1838. It was collectively called Slough.
 
The station attracted understandable interest. It was just an informal stop for a while because the headmaster of Eton made a rumpus about railways interrupting the discipline of the school.
 
In a typically British compromise, the train just ‘happened‘ to stop at Slough so passengers could alight.
 
But you can’t rely on chance when an empress gets on.  
 
Queen Victoria made her first journey to London from Slough’s newly built station in 1842. Long before Betjeman invited the bombs, before concrete, before industrial estates.
 
And 94 years before the advent of Maltesers.
 
 
 

*Joel Glen Brenner, “Planet of the M&Ms”  Washington Post Magazine, April 12, 1992
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29 Responses to “Victory Victoria”

  1. misswhiplash July 8, 2012 at 10:56 #

    A lady of talent, humour and interesting facts..I must investigate further….xxxxx

    Like

  2. granny1947 July 8, 2012 at 11:08 #

    that was so well written AND interesting.

    Like

  3. speccy July 8, 2012 at 11:15 #

    Kate, unbeatable as ever! Tilly, what a wonderful idea for a guest post 🙂

    Like

  4. Gian Carlo ♥ the Daydreamer July 8, 2012 at 11:39 #

    She’s awesome 😀

    Like

  5. vivinfrance July 8, 2012 at 11:48 #

    And before the electric trains from Waterloo stopped at “Windsor and Eton”.

    Thanks, Tilly, for re-posting this great bit of history – some of it Viv’s history, as I went to school in Slough, and worked at Mars for two years.

    Like

    • kateshrewsday July 8, 2012 at 13:29 #

      Oooh, Viv, where did you go to school? I was a sixth former there too…

      Like

  6. bluebee July 8, 2012 at 13:01 #

    Another great pairing

    Like

  7. kateshrewsday July 8, 2012 at 13:30 #

    Tilly, thanks for having me 🙂 I shall not meet a challenge like that in a long while…

    Like

  8. SidevieW July 8, 2012 at 14:12 #

    Oh well done,Kate of the invisible links.
    You each deserve a pasket of Maltesers, and may happily say “We are not amused” when they are finished 😉

    Like

  9. carnellm July 8, 2012 at 14:33 #

    My thanks to Kate for pointing the way to you site. And, although a guest post, the first post I read involves trains. A double win!

    Love your sense of humor and your abject humility. 😉 You have been placed in my “must read” list.

    Like

  10. Roger Stowell July 8, 2012 at 14:57 #

    Nice one, Kate. Gauntlet gathered neatly and challenger unseated in the lists:)

    Like

  11. Al July 8, 2012 at 15:36 #

    Always nice to learn a little history while reading a well written piece. I shall definitely be visiting her site. I enjoyed it so much, it merits a rhyme comment.

    Victoria’s descendants abound
    There’s nowhere they can’t be found
    But they’re not worth a whit
    You must readily admit
    Unless with Maltesers they’re crowned.

    Like

  12. Just A Smidgen July 8, 2012 at 15:50 #

    .. and had she the good fortune to have lived in those later times.. she would have ridden that train just to pick up some maltesers.. Wait, she would have sent someone to get them??

    Like

  13. colonialist July 8, 2012 at 15:58 #

    Ah yes, vintage Shrewsday. I’m sure if she mixed oil and water they would passively submit. Moilter? Watroil?

    Like

  14. laurieanichols July 8, 2012 at 16:14 #

    wow that was great. Kate is, as you said Tilly, gifted with the hook and folding two disparate things together to make for a lively package of interest. Impresssive.

    Like

  15. klrs09 July 8, 2012 at 16:29 #

    She did it, and it was amazing! Maltesers and a Queen — love it. By the way, what is a ‘gaff’?

    Like

  16. idiosyncratic eye July 8, 2012 at 17:26 #

    The two most disturbing facts that I took away from this are: Queen Victoria is responsible for Slough (that borders on the ironic) and that quote from Betjeman, how long ago was that written?! 🙂

    Like

  17. Janie Jones July 8, 2012 at 17:55 #

    A curiously fascinating read. And rather like eating a bag of Maltesers; you just can’t stop until you’ve reached the bottom.

    Like

  18. terry1954 July 8, 2012 at 18:30 #

    i really enjoyed this!

    Like

  19. gingerfightback July 8, 2012 at 19:21 #

    Nice one Kate – Prince Albert was made out of Crunchies.

    Like

  20. musings July 8, 2012 at 19:37 #

    This is absolutely remarkable!

    Like

  21. Karen Snyder July 8, 2012 at 23:02 #

    Here, these are simply known as Whoppers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Whoppers_box.jpg) or by the even more pedestrian “malted milk balls.” I suspect Kate could link them to library paste, given a bit of time! 🙂

    And now I’ve found The Laughing Housewife . . . Soon I’ll have no time for anything but reading, ’cause I’m adding my name to your list of followers (we have too much in common for me to pass on the opportunity to learn more, and I cannot resist a good laugh!)

    Like

  22. Gabrielle Bryden July 8, 2012 at 23:39 #

    Kate is the queen of juxtaposition – I kneel at her feet and bow my head 😉

    Like

  23. souldipper July 9, 2012 at 02:51 #

    Well, she did it again, Tilly – with elegance and empress-like certainty. Great challenge!

    Like

  24. Jas July 9, 2012 at 06:21 #

    You rose to the challenge Kate. Well done. I am so very proud to know you… 🙂

    Like

  25. Three Well Beings July 9, 2012 at 16:14 #

    Well done, Kate. I felt a temptation to add “So there!” to the bottom of the page. Informative history, but above all, I now want to taste a Malteser…a whole new sugar high! Debra

    Like

I welcome your comments but be warned: I'm menopausal and as likely to snarl as smile. Wine or Maltesers are an acceptable bribe; or a compliment about my youthful looks and cheery disposition will do in a pinch.

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