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Thoughts from May 2008

circle of death

If you come to work for us here at Fruit Towers not only do you get your very own phone, desk and computer but we also throw in one free circle of death* every year on your birthday.

I just had my second ever circle of death (or COD) and it looked a little something like this from the receiving end.

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Thanks for the cake Jess

Lou had here seventh circle of death this morning and got a cake that looked like this.

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Chocolate fingers double up as great window wipers and bumpers. Oreo's for wheels.

Hand baked by a very talented and kind man called Robin who looks like this. He went to a lot of effort, on a sunny bank holiday weekend as well. That's what working at innocent is about.

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If you fancy getting your very own circle of death then have a look at some of the current vacancies on offer both in the UK and on the continent at the minute.

*Circle of death
Now this may sound a bit odd, but it only happens to everyone once a year and no one escapes, not even if you are on holiday. On the anniversary of your birth someone will bake you a cake and then in a mass stealth pincer movement, everyone in the building will land on and around your desk and sing happy birthday, normally very badly. You then get to give a little speech, tell amusing anecdotes or recite poetry. It can be pretty scary but you do get cake.

penny pot

Spotted this in a petrol station near Worcester the other weekend.

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If you can't read what's written at the top, it says:

If you're slightly short, feel free to dip into our penny pot. All donations, received with thanks.

They're not referring to your ability to see over the counter or making fun of your height though.

It just means the next time you're a few pence short of that bag of mint imperials, you can make up the difference from the penny pot. According to Olly who works there, people use it everyday and don't take advantage by emptying all the change onto the counter and trying to buy as many Double Deckers as they can with the money.

There's also a couple of charity boxes nearby in case you want to donate your spare change instead.

Just a really nice idea.

questionnaire competition: the winners

the innocent AGM

A few weeks ago we asked you to fill in one of our highly technical AGM questionnaires, and upload the finshed version to Flickr (or fill in the online version). It was also a bit of a competition, and now we're very excited to announce the lucky winners.

Best fruit drawing

Sandra

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This should really be drawings, as Sandra took this part quite seriously. As well as suggesting lots of great new stuff for us, she annotated each bullet with a different fruit.

Best suggestion

Katy

Katy was the clear winner of this one with her suggestion to get David Tennant on our labels. Just so you know Katy, we've started a petition about this at Fruit Towers, and we'll let you know how it goes. For now, here's a picture.

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Best overall questionnaire

Claire

This prize goes to Claire, on two counts: her answers were brilliant, and she made the questionnaire into the shape of a boat, complete with an avocado flag. We've got a couple of questions for Claire. Who is your friend with the great hat? And is that your boat behind you?

So there you are. We'll be in touch with the winners very soon, and thank you very much to everyone for entering. We really enjoyed reading them all.

in search of baobab

andrew in malawi

Hello.

Woke up early yesterday morning as we wanted to head out to the place where the baobab (which I talked about in my last blog) grow. A beautiful sunrise awaited me as I waited for Towera and her team to turn up.

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We hired a 4x4 from a local aid agency and got driving - the trees are mainly found in the hills and out in the country. I actually ended up sitting in the back which was great although my Scottish skin is a little pink today.

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After an hour of driving we found the majestic baobab trees. The baobab fruits are the little pods hanging from the trees. They are about 5cm - 25cm in length and the longer they get, the sweeter they taste. It's a pretty useful plant - the fruit is packed with VITC and used for food and drink, the seeds can be ground into oils and the leaves can be used for medicine. On top of this, the tree acts like a camel by storing water within it's huge trunk for the summer months. This also makes it fire resistant which is quite handy as people often burn the top soil during crop rotations. Loads more information about this amazing plant here, here and here.

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Here's another picture of a mini baobab forest. Baobabs are not really planted as a crop. They're owned by the villages and have started being picked by small co-ops as the fruit has become more of a financial asset for it's by-products. They haven't been chopped down like so many other trees in Malawi because they can't be used for wood or charcoal due to their spongy bark. And according to local custom, bad things happen to you if you get a bit saw-happy.

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It's really exciting to learn more about this tree as it's such a sustainable crop with real environmental benefits. In the two days I've been here, I have already seen so many aid "projects" that have started and failed in Malawi. Towera and others, including the Microloan Foundation, are using a local crop to make things better through employing and empowering locals. It's this kind of work that will really make a difference in Africa and it's great to see it in action.

More about juicing, the wonderful Towera and how you make this fruit into a drink next time . . .

Andrew D