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Iain Maciver: A sniff test is vital for checking out politics as well as milk

Morrisons supermarket will no longer print a use-by date on milk, in favour of a 'best before' date (Photo: Gary L Hider/Shutterstock)
Morrisons supermarket will no longer print a use-by date on milk, in favour of a 'best before' date (Photo: Gary L Hider/Shutterstock)

Something smells in this fridge.

This time it is not my leftover smoked mackerel fillet from breakfast, lying there to be my go-to wakener upper later this week. It’s coming from that white plastic container of lemon and green-coloured stuff. What do you mean it’s the milk for my porridge? Ugh, that’s honking.

Most supermarkets are expected to take the use-by date off their milk, er, containers. I almost said milk bottles, but I haven’t seen one for about 30 years. They want us to do a sniff test to decide if we want to pour it over our Coco Pops.

Cartons will now have “best before” dates to “give an indication of when the milk will have the best taste”. Milk can often still be drinkable for a few days after that. It’s because we in Britain waste about 330,000 tonnes of milk every year. That’s about 7% of what cows give us.

Britain wastes around 330,000 tonnes of milk every year (Photo: John And Penny/Shutterstock)

The move has been kicked off by Morrisons, who have given us a handy test guide. Their advice says we should check milk by holding the bottle to our noses. No. Really?

“If it smells sour then it may have spoiled. If it has curdled and lumps have formed that is also a sign it should not be used.” Enough, already. Not retching is a tall order.

Postal orders are still cutting edge for the DVLA

Another kind of order I haven’t thought of for decades cropped up because Mrs X and I got reminders to renew our driving licence photos. No problemo. You take a photo of me and I’ll take one of you and we’ll upload them.

Our two £17 photo renewal fees to the DVLA actually cost more than £38. For sending two teeny photos?

Problemo. If you’ve no valid passport, and ours expired donkeys ago, you must apply with form D1. The D1 is only available from larger town centre post offices. I’d to face rush hour Stornoway traffic.

We could only pay by cheque or postal order. It’s been so long since I wrote a cheque, I couldn’t find the chequebook.

And, a what…? A postal order? My old man used to buy a couple of £1 ones every fortnight to enrich the coffers of Littlewoods Pools back in the 1970s. We were poor, but we could dream. Listen, we were so poor in Great Bernera we had to eat cornflakes with a fork to save milk.

When was the last time you saw a postal order? (Photo: Deatonphotos/Shutterstock)

I’ve not bought a postal order since. But, Great Britain, a forward-looking country and so technologically advanced, insists on curled-up paper forms, ink and postal orders when dealing with the DVLA. Like in the 1970s.

So, we posed with the legally-required glaikit expressions for Malcolm in the photo shop. Good job, cove, but couldn’t you have got my best side? Oh, that was it? Really?

Then, off to Harry in Newton post office. He knew what a postal order was. Someone must be using them. Harry asked who it was for and, ping, it was spat out with DVLA already engraved. Snazzy.

Snazziness costs a whacking fee of 12.5%, or one-eighth in old money. That’s, well, that’s, er, a lot. So our two £17 photo renewal fees to the DVLA – or Department Vetoing Logical Automation, as we now call it – actually cost more than £38. For sending two teeny photos? Something has significantly changed since the 1970s.

Forget the milk – something smells fishy in parliament

Something else I haven’t seen for a few years is common sense trying to surface in certain organisations. Labour’s Angela Rayner is, nowadays, properly lambasting Boris Johnson over his latest alleged boozy party, and much else. No wonder Sir Keir Stammerer is letting her fire the bullets. Something there also doesn’t smell right.

Rayner is your best performer. You sorry you tried to demote her before, KS?

Recently Labour’s Angela Rayner has been more outspoken about Boris Johnson than party leader Keir Starmer (Photo: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/Shutterstock)

Meanwhile, CalMac promises to rebuild islanders’ trust. Hmm, good luck with that.

We’ve heard such guff before but, this time, will you appoint islanders to your board and not cronies from shipowner CMAL? If not, forget it. Trust has to be earned.

And Highlands and Islands Airports (Hial) has shelved its silly remote towers job-destroying plans until it comes to agreement with unions – which, hopefully, it won’t.

In parliament on Monday, the Hial boss was somewhat tetchy with an on-form MP Douglas Ross. When his video link kept dropping, a red-faced Inglis Lyons explained he was communicating on a £39.99 router – not the kind of technology his project would use, which has already cost us £9 million. That doesn’t smell right. Move on.

Meanwhile, I will move on to skimmed milk, as it lasts longer. Maybe I’ll make it myself. How do you throw a fully-grown cow across a loch?

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