The great British Flake shortage

Britain is headed into the ice cream season and we’re nose to nose with a shortage of flakes. 

No, not people who lock themselves out of their houses and get in by involving half the people they know, three neighbors, and half a dozen cops, then discover that they’d left a downstairs window open for the cat and could’ve climbed through.

Not that kind of flake. There’s no shortage of that kind anywhere. We’re talking about one of the basic food groups of British cuisine: Cadbury’s 99 Flakes, a folded chocolate stick that gets stuck into the top of a soft-serve ice cream cone. The manufacturer says the shortage is caused by a spike in demand.


Irrelevant photo: a camellia. 

reland reports that it’s facing the same crisis, and I can’t speak to how that affects Ireland but I won’t rule out the possibility that Britain will collapse without 99 Flakes, that civilization (such as it is) will end, or that rioting will break out everywhere an ice cream truck plays its prefabricated song. 

So why’s the 99 Flake called a 99 Flake? No one knows. The maker has a theory, though:

“In the days of the monarchy in Italy, the King had a specially chosen guard consisting of 99 men, and subsequently anything really special or first class was known as ’99’ — and that is how ’99’ Flake came by its name.” 

On the other hand, that could be total bullshit.


The obligatory cat story

In March, a London to Manchester train was delayed by a cat on the roof. The train was taken out of service, the passengers were–is decanted the right word?

Sure it is: The passengers were decanted onto a different train, which left for Manchester with all of them on board, because you know what humans are like once they get an idea into their heads, they just had to get to Manchester. And the cat–being a cat–stayed right where it was, thanks, and refused to comment on what it was doing or how it got there.  

Someone created a makeshift platform for it and when it was damn well ready–some two and a half hours after it was spotted–it got down and left. Staff at Euston station described it as swaggering off.

In a massive public relations failure, no one offered to open a can of cat food for it. 

The cat had been dangerously close to 25,000 volts of electricity (what other than electricity would there be 25,000 volts of?) running through the overhead lines, which is why no one got up there with it to convince it down.


And the obligatory lockdown story

A stationery store and workshop in London handed out blank postcards asking people to send their lockdown secrets in anonymously. When I last checked, some 1,200 people had sent in cards.  It’s probably more by now.

A few excerpts: 

“We got married in lockdown so we wouldn’t have to invite you.”

“I’m a bisexual woman and I haven’t told my friends or family.”

“I hide bars of chocolate in an old Oxo tin.”

“I haven’t had sex in seventeen months.”

“I haven’t worn a bra for three months.”

“He may be a Tory bastard but I can’t help but have a thing for Rishi.”

“I love my leg hair.”

“I take really long baths with snacks and a drink and maybe a movie. It’s the only room in the house with a lock.”

“It has been so long now literally everything turns me ooon.”

22 thoughts on “The great British Flake shortage

  1. The 99 Flakes sound good. None available here even in season apparently,
    Glad the cat was ok. I’m sure “swaggered” was the perfect descriptive.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve never tried a 99 Flake. They look milk chocolatish, and I’m a fan of the plain dark stuff. So this crisis, at least, will pass me by.

      I’m with you on the description. Someone at Euston Station knows their cats.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Every country’s well supplied with the other kind–and I can assure you of that on the basis of zero scientific research to back me up but a small amount of personal experience. No need.


  2. Ha! I love those postcards!! and the cat story. And I remember those CadburyFlake cones when we lived there… that is a very British phenomenon in my mind. And that darned ice cream truck which caused so much inadvertent suffering for some at the after school play park. Ah, well, guess they couldn’t please everybody… this season, maybe less so, though… without the quintessential topping. Nice roundup, Ellen. :)) Sending virtual hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Nadine.

      For what the information’s worth, I tried to get to your blog the other day and the computer told me I’d been redirected too many times (in a second or so) and it had given up. I don’t know what it means or if you’re able to do anything about it, but I thought I’d let you know.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed this post Ellen, thanks. A shortage of 99’s is indeed a catastrophe for anyone in the UK who enjoys their summer ice creams. I also love the story about the cat, shame there is no footage of the swaggering exit but I’m sure the cat would not have deigned to comment anyway 🐱.
    And full marks to the inventors of Lockdown Secrets – lots of people can probably identify with at least some of the confessions that have been revealed….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The only thing I know about flakes of the chocolate variety is the TV ads which ran back in the day, where they tried to make it out as a somewhat suggestive treat. I’m not sure the advertising world would get away with such a thing now.

    Even more important is, as you say, the fact that it’s entirely the wrong sort of chocolate – but that’s the British for you. Personally, I’ve always selected my ice cream sans flake when the option is available.

    Liked by 1 person

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