May I have a word about the real meaning of ambient food

<span>Photograph: Nicholas +T Ansell/PA</span>
Photograph: Nicholas +T Ansell/PA

I know I must be an oddity but I do enjoy reading the City pages in newspapers, despite dodgy banks, inflation, doom loops, death spirals and Andrew Bailey.

It happened again last week with a report about food prices. “Inflation of ambient foods has quickened to 12.4%, from 12.2% last month.” Ambient music I am well aware of – think Brian Eno and Music for Airports – but ambient foods? Genuinely a new one to me.

It transpires that ambient foods are items that can typically be safely stored at room temperature, such as tea, coffee, canned vegetables, fruit and soups. I shall look at such items with added respect in the future, given that they have such a grand title.

I find it’s the small things that irk the most and last week was no exception. On various television programmes, I heard the following – parked up, ease down, swapped out and cook off. The last was on Jamie Oliver’s thrifty cooking show and I know from experience that he can’t resist adding “off” to his sentences, but if he and you will forgive me, it is a quite redundant word and leaves me completely browned off.

Geoff Mayne writes: “In February, Transport for Wales (TfW) had a problem with one of its trains, which was described on their website as a ‘thermal incident’. It had caught fire!”

In the same school of management speak, Stephen Parker sent me the following gem: “I have been offered a new job. I wasn’t contacted by their HR department, but by their ‘on-boarding team’.” I do hope for his sake that it’s not being run by Transport for Wales.

And thank you to Ian Wilson: “Have you noticed that ‘me’ seems to be disappearing as a pronoun? South Western Railway guards ask passengers (sorry, customers) to ‘report anything suspicious to myself’.”

Heavens, train companies have a lot to answer for these days.


• Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist