Crumbs! Web site gives archivists food for thought

 @ibtimes on September 16 2006 1:48 PM

Well I think we should all sit down and have a nice cup of tea, and some biscuits, nice ones mind you. Oh and some cake would be nice as well. Lovely.

The British Library may have raised academic eyebrows when it decided that a Web site with this mission statement should be archived among those that may be of social significance, stamping it a modern classic of British popular culture.

www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com -- a conduit for pent-up biscuit interest in the general public according to its author, Nicey -- regularly receives more than 60,000 views a week and is one of about 800 sites chosen in the past two years by the library as of possible interest to future scholars, at www.webarchive.org.uk.

This site is quintessentially British -- at least it plays on an idea of Britishness that we all recognize, said Nicola Johnson, web archivist at the Library.

Through the medium of biscuits, she said, the site offers a nicely observed subtle string of social commentary.

Besides an uncomfortable acronym, NCOTAASD offers reviews and polls on tea-and-biscuit habits worldwide, and occasionally fierce debate about the merits or otherwise of teabag-squeezing, organic fare, when to dunk, Lapsang Souchong tea (words can't describe how nasty it is) and global economics.

If you want to make a protest against globalization through the medium of biscuits then the Oreo is the chappy, says its review of the self-styled World's No 1 biscuit. The response is heated.

A Cambridge computer bloke who always kept a biscuit tin in the office, Nicey -- aka Stuart Payne -- says friends started calling him a lifestyler after the site and accompanying book paid off the mortgage on his three-bedroom house. A Japanese version of the book is now planned.

You can learn a lot about other people from their biscuits, said Payne, adding that the British and Irish make the best biscuits in the world. The French like to think they do. Bless them, they do make a lot of halfway decent ones.

Payne and his wife Jenny make media appearances to discuss biscuit-related issues such as the impact of takeovers on the flavor, texture or packaging of familiar snacks, and are occasionally asked to review new biscuit launches, so manufacturers can cite their Biscuit of the Week slot.

No cash changes hands, and that keeps it real, he says. The family do take bulk biscuit deliveries from public relations firms, but the most popular are unlikely to be chocolate-covered at the moment. Oats! That's great in a biscuit, said Payne. And currants. There's not enough currants. Currants! That's exciting!

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