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It’s about branding, stupid. (In defence of Nurofen.)

July 25, 2017

This is a post I wrote a while ago about branding and ibuprofen. For some reason I didn’t post it. But having just written a post about migraines, and mentioned ibuprofen lysine, I thought this was appropriate, so I’m posting it now.

The press in the UK prominently featured a judicial ruling in Australia against Reckitt Benckiser (one example) – the UK-based manufacturer of Nurofen. Nurofen’s a brand name for ibuprofen – an anti-inflammatory drug generally known as a NSAID.

Generic ibuprofen is available in the UK for as little as 16p a pack of 200mg tablets (1p per tablet).

However branded Nurofen is more expensive. That’s known as “branding” by marketers. Branding is a normal way of trying to maintain a price premium in a commodity market. And Nurofen has (or had) a very good brand reputation in the UK – but if what you want is generic ibuprofen, you can buy that more cheaply.

But generic ibuprofen, the active ingredient in standard Nurofen, isn’t very soluble, so it takes a little while to work its way into the bloodstream. There is a compound of ibuprofen that will provide faster pain relief: ibuprofen lysine. It’s highly soluble and therefore enters the bloodstream very quickly. It’s marketed by Boots (for example) as Rapid Ibuprofen. Reckitt Benckiser markets it as Nurofen Express which is more expensive than the Boots’ version, but it’s the same stuff. It’s NOT the same as generic ibuprofen – it contains an equivalent dose, but it starts to work more quickly.

ibuprofenlysineSo what’s everyone getting upset about?

First, much of the press – including the Daily Mail linked to above – is confusing generic ibuprofen and ibuprofen lysine. Although they contain equivalent doses, they are different and you would normally expect there to be a price differential. If you don’t care how long the drugs take to work – for example you’re using this drug to reduce swelling and don’t need immediate relief, then buy the cheapest generic. If you have a migraine and want your pain relief as fast as possible then you can pay more for a faster acting version of the drug.

nurofen_migraine_pain_342mg_-_12_capletsBut beyond this, the marketing guys at Reckitt Benckiser have been creating different packages for Nurofen Express and branding it as Nurofen Migraine Pain, Nurofen Period Pain and other variants. The press is getting excited because these are all the same drug in different guises. It’s true that the packaging conveys the impression that the contents are formulated to specifically target different types of pain. However if you read the details and compare the packages to one another it’s clear that each of them contains the same dose of ibuprofen lysine.

So are they trying to fool the public? I don’t think so. Let me try to explain.

In my past I’ve done some work in retail marketing. Retail packaging is all designed to sell your product, so there are three things you design your packaging to do:

  1. Be more attractive to potential customers than the competition – target your market segment
  2. Occupy more shelf space than the competition
  3. Describe the product (complying with relevant legislation)

So by labelling a package “Migraine Pain”, for example, the vendor makes it more attractive to someone suffering with a migraine who’s looking for fast relief from the pain. If they’ve got an excruciating headache they’re unlikely to read the packaging, or the leaflet inside, to see if something generically labelled as “Ibuprofen Express” is actually useful for migraine pain. They’ll simply pick up the one with “Migraine” in big letters on the package. This means Nurofen Migraine Pain is likely to sell in greater quantities to migraine sufferers than Nurofen Express even though it’s the same stuff.

Secondly, if the vendor manufactures multiple packages each for a different market segment (migraine sufferers, period pain sufferers and tennis elbow sufferers, for example) and each of those packages occupies a slot on the retail shelf then they’re denying that space to their competition – so increasing their sales and reducing those of their competitors.

This is an entirely normal retail sales strategy and you see it everywhere. Remember there were different covers printed for the Harry Potter novels – one aimed at adults and a different one at children? Same strategy – segment the market, take up more retail space, increase sales volume.

Is this a problem for the customer?

I don’t think so. Be an informed customer. If you want to know what’s in the packet, read the blurb on the back before you make your buying decision. Buying Nurofen Migraine Pain rather than Ibuprofen Express is no different from buying your electricity without checking to see if there’s a better deal from another supplier, or complaining that the adult version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the same as the children’s version.

As a nation we’re getting a bit more savvy about knowing what we’re buying, both in retail and online, but we can still be influenced by imaginative marketing.

Read the packet!

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The weirdest migraine

July 25, 2017

I’ve been suffering from the occasional migraine for some years. My migraines are very consistent and are known as ocular migraines, or migraines with aura. They start with a spot in the centre of my vision. As soon as this happens I know I’m going to get a migraine and I know that the pain will follow in about 20 minutes. (I found this page from the Mayo Clinic informative.)

Either my wife or I generally carry ibuprofen lysine (aka Ibuprofen Express), which is a more soluble, and therefore quicker-acting form of ibuprofen than the regular medication. If I take this immediately the aura starts then I can generally avoid, or at least massively reduce, the pain of the subsequent headache.

When this happens I generally take myself off to bed, or a darkened room.

ocular-migranie-images-300x153The progress is always the same, the spot expands, it becomes a jagged bright diagonal line and I lose up to half my visual field. Which side I lose depends on which side I’m getting the migraine, so if my right visual field disappears then it’s a left-sided migraine and that’s where the pain occurs. The image above is very similar to my experience. This is from a website on Ocular Migraines. Very occasionally I get the same effect on the other side.

After about 30 minutes my vision returns (the jagged line slowly rises up my visual field and out of view) and if I haven’t taken the pain killers, that’s when I get the pain, for a couple of hours. Following that, and for as much as the next two days, my head feels bruised – as if someone’s hit me on the back of the head with something hard.

There’s no particular food, drink or activity that I’ve noticed that triggers one of my migraines. It could happen at home in front of the television, or travelling, or sitting reading. I am aware that a bright polarised light such as sunlight reflected off a shiny surface such as a wet road, a table or a body of water can bring one on though. I try to avoid those situations.

Yesterday was different though.

We were in the car on our way to supper with some close friends when I noticed the first visual disturbance. We stopped and I took the ibuprofen. We contemplated turning back, but ultimately decided to press on. By the time we arrived, I’d lost the right-hand half of my visual field. We explained the situation to our friends, reassured them I’d be ok in a while, and I had a cold (non-alcoholic) drink.

Never before have I tried taking part in a normal conversation during a migraine attack. It was quite bizarre. I’d lost much of my vocabulary, and actually found speaking very hard. When I did speak, I wasn’t making any sense (either to me, or to anyone else). I knew what I wanted to say, but not only could I not find the right words, I wasn’t pronouncing the words I could find properly or in the right order! This isn’t something I’d ever noticed before, but the websites about ocular migraines mention that speech may be disturbed.

After an hour or so, during the lovely meal, I became more coherent. I carefully avoided the classic migraine foods of cheese, coffee, chocolate and alcohol. By the time we left for home I was feeling much more like myself. Just a little bruised and fragile. And because I was the one who hadn’t drunk anything, I drove.

Life returned to (relatively) normal. A most unusual experience. (And yes, I have consulted my doctor in the past, I’ve had an MRI scan of my head, and we’ve ruled out strokes, TIAs and other possible serious causes, so I just have to live with the migraines and keep taking the ibuprofen lysine.)

 

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Is a “Curve” card worth trying?

April 10, 2017

I’ve been reading about the Curve card.

From what I can work out, it’s a MasterCard prepay card that, instead of you topping it up with credit, provides a “token” when you use it for a transaction which links the transaction back to Curve. The transaction can then be re-charged to any of the cards (credit or debit) with which you’ve linked it.

A beta Curve card

It’s multi-currency, and will give you a decent exchange rate (MasterCard rate + 1%) without commission on foreign currency transactions.

One of their big claims is that you can use it to pay with your Amex card (and get loyalty points) anywhere that takes MasterCard – which is more places than take Amex at the moment.

They also suggest this is a way of reducing the number of cards you have to carry to one. Indeed Ted Truscott has written a review after using Curve for a week where he suggests this is now the only card he carries.

But I’m skeptical.

First, from what I can see from Curve’s FAQs by using Curve you compromise your consumer rights: if you use a credit card directly to buy something then the transaction is between you and the credit card company, and your final recourse in the event of a problem is to the credit card company as the vendor. The same protection doesn’t apply to debit cards – they’re essentially the same as paying with cash. And using Curve give you the same consumer protection as using a debit card:

“using Curve is not a direct purchase from the user’s original card, so the purchases are not covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act”

Second, I’m concerned that putting all your cards on Curve gives you a single point of failure: while your individual card details will be concealed, if the Curve card, the privacy of your app, or the token the card uses, becomes compromised surely all your cards are at risk?

Third, if I were to use a Curve card, and put all my debit and credit cards on it, I would reduce the number of those in my wallet from four to one. And I could carry my Euro debit card which I normally only have with me when I’m travelling. But I also have loyalty cards, membership cards and my driving license to carry: I couldn’t stop carrying my wallet – I’d merely have six cards in it instead of nine.

And fourth, I already have a MasterCard that gives me low-cost, commission free foreign exchange purchases.

So for me, the only real benefit would be that I could use my Amex card in a few more places. But I already have a MasterCard, so I can still buy stuff in those places – and get consumer protection on the purchase which I wouldn’t get if I used Curve (or the Amex alone, as it happens, since it’s a charge card).

So, while I’m tempted to try it – it’s new technology (and I’m a sucker for that), I’m not quite tempted enough to actually part with the joining fee yet.

I’ll be keeping an eye on its development…

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OneDrive – this idiot’s guide

September 11, 2016

Finally, I think I’ve got the idea of Microsoft OneDrive, and it works!

In principle, it’s very straightforward – OneDrive is a cloud drive, the size of which depends on how much you pay for it, but it’s at least 5GB for a free account. This then shows up as a local drive on your PC or Mac which appears in Explorer/Finder and which is synchronised with the cloud version. You can choose which folders to synchronise, or to synchronise all of them (which is the default action).

onedrive-apple

Seems pretty simple. However there are some wrinkles and it’s taken me a while to work them out.

How many Drives are One?

I don’t have just one OneDrive, I have three: one for my personal account (which is free, and therefore 5GB), one for my business account, with which I pay for Office 365. This gives me a 1TB OneDrive for Business. And finally I have one provided by the company for which I’m doing some work at the moment – I’ll call this my “client” account. I suspect this is also 1TB, but given that it’s a 400+ employee company and it’s using Office 365 (O365) with Exchange in the cloud it may well have even more online space than that.

I use three computers:

  • A MacBook Pro at my client, with O365, apps and OneDrive paid for by my client
  • A MacBook Pro at home, for my own business, with O365, OneDrive and apps paid for by my business
  • A Windows 10 PC at home – my home machine – I login to this machine with my personal Microsoft account, but I’ve installed O365 using one of the five O365 computer licenses available to my business account.

For a while I thought I had a fourth OneDrive. You see Windows 10 comes with a OneDrive app already installed, but unless you log in to one of your OneDrive accounts (at which point the icon shows a green tick on it), it works simply as a local drive, so it looks like it’s an entirely separate OneDrive from the others. However if you login, either when prompted on startup, or by right-clicking the OneDrive icon in the Taskbar (I logged into my personal OneDrive on my Windows 10 PC) then it synchronises with that OneDrive in the cloud, and what appeared to be four OneDrives now become three.

Can I access more than one OneDrive simultaneously?

So, how do I access multiple OneDrives at the same time one one computer? The answer isn’t obvious. Initially I expected I could simply add multiple connections. But it’s not that straightforward.logo_onedrive_business

The easy way is to go into one of the O365 apps (I’ll use Word as an example since it’s easy – Outlook is similar but much trickier to do) then I can add the other OneDrive accounts. I launch Word 2016. On Windows I click on the “File” menu, (no need on a Mac – the first presented view is fine). There’s an “Open” option in the left-hand menu. Click on this, and one of the options offered is “add a place” – and that’s where I connect to my other OneDrive accounts. I can click either OneDrive (to add my personal account) or OneDrive for Business (to add either or both my business or client’s account) – I enter the credentials and there are all the files. So I can open any Word documents that are stored in any of my three OneDrives.

The same works for Excel, PowerPoint, and (with a bit of rooting around in the menus) Outlook 2016. In Outlook you’re looking for the “Office Account” menu option under “File” rather than “Open” which tries to open another email account.

This all works beautifully if the only documents I want to use are Microsoft files. So I can browse all three OneDrives looking for Word documents in Word, or spreadsheets in Excel. But I also use some other apps, specifically Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat and InDesign. All my Adobe documents are stored on my client’s OneDrive for Business. How do I access them from home so I can work on them remotely? Or do I have to give in and use Adobe’s document cloud for my Adobe documents, and Apple’s iCloud for my Apple files? Or do I abandon all of these entirely and use a third-party cloud such as Google or Amazon?

All computers are equal, but PCs are more equal than Macs

The answer is you can do it on a PC, but I haven’t found any way of doing this on a Mac.

On my PC if I go to the Task Bar (conventionally bottom right) and right click on the OneDrive icon, and click “settings” I’m presented with a bunch of tabs. If I click the “Account” tab then there’s an option to “Add an Account” – by selecting this and logging in with another OneDrive set of credentials I can create a second OneDrive on the PC – in my case for my business drive. Et voilá – I can now access all the files on that OneDrive, not just the Microsoft ones.

After working this section out for myself, I found a useful Microsoft Support article that covers this.

Repeat for all other OneDrive accounts and you have access to all your files on a Microsoft OneDrive, whichever it is.

[On a Mac you can download the Microsoft OneDrive App from the App Store. But it appears that you can connect it only to one OneDrive. If I find a way of connecting the MacOS version of OneDrive to more than one OneDrive account, I’ll update the post.]

Update: I’ve worked out how to do this on a Mac. In Finder, right click on the OneDrive icon on the menu bar and click Preferences. Then select the Account tab and click on “Add an Account” – login with your other OneDrive account credentials, and away you go! Simple (well it is when I stop trying to look for a OneDrive menu bar and use Finder instead – doh!)

But the iPad version is the best

Trivial. Download OneDrive for iPad from the App store. Log in with one of your OneDrive/Office365/MicrosoftLive accounts. In the top left corner you’ll see a little icon of a person. Click, select “Add account” and log in with another, and another.

If you’ve already downloaded (and activated) your O365 apps on the iPad then it all just works. Seamlessly. Why isn’t the Mac version this easy?

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The Ridgeway. It only took seven years!

May 8, 2016

You may recall my post back in 2009 about walking the Ridgeway long distance footpath. Well you can see from that post that I had left the final section, from Fox Hill to Overton Hill, a distance of about 17 miles, to be completed.

What happened? “Events, dear boy, events.” A lot has happened in those intervening seven years. I got a job – that was the immediate cause of my being unable to finish the walk. We’ve also acquired a beautiful great-niece, Imogen, and a great-nephew, Toby. My Danish niece Katarina has moved to the UK to study at Canterbury Cristchurch University. Her sister Sarah has graduated with First Class honours. And Maddie, the daughter of my best friend from University, has become engaged.

And that’s the trigger. Maddie invited my wife to her hen weekend, and so my wife asked me what I’d be doing this weekend while she was away drinking prosecco and Pimms at a cottage somewhere in the North of England. And I thought – I can finish the Ridgeway path!

That’s how I found myself crammed into a very small seat on a GWR train to Swindon in the rush hour on Friday night. One of the reasons it’s taken so long to get this final section done is that it’s not very accessible – but I finally worked out that I could do it using Swindon as a base. So I’d booked into the Travelodge for two nights – it’s very handy for the bus and train stations – and I was on my way.

We used to live in Swindon. More than 30 years ago. It’s changed so much I didn’t recognise anything at all. There’s a new cinema complex which includes several chain restaurants: Prezzo, Nando’s and GBK. Having explored the, rather depressing, town centre, I opted for Prezzo and had a decent meal. It’s about the most up-market restaurant in the centre of Swindon. I had a beer in the bar of the Travelodge before retiring, and had a long chat with the manager who promised to buy me a beer the following evening if I finished the walk.

The next morning I loaded up with the buffet hot breakfast – just scrambled egg, and no black pudding, but tasty sausage, beans, mushrooms, toast, tea & OJ. Then I was on my way to the bus station to get the 48 service to Fox Hill, the place where I’d finished the previous leg all those years ago.

Irritatingly Thameslink buses only accept exact fares on their services – the driver has no access to the money and can’t give change. So I had to over-pay for my bus fare. At least the bus ran on time, and the fares aren’t exorbitant (unlike the services where I live in Wycombe and South Bucks, where the fares are high and the buses seem to never run to schedule). As I boarded an elderly gentleman asked which way I was going to be walking. I explained I was heading south west to Overton Hill and Avebury. He suggested I got off the bus at the top of Liddington Hill. He was trying to save my having to walk a mile or so along the road from Fox Hill to Liddington where the Ridgeway then leaves the road and heads up over the hills again.

I thanked him for his concern, but pointed out that for my own peace of mind, as well as the completeness of the walk, I needed to start the walk from the point I finished it last time. So there I was. Fox Hill. Next to the long-closed Shepherd’s Rest pub and opposite the bus stop where my last adventure along the Ridgeway path finished seven years ago.

Bus stop at Fox Hill

Bus stop at Fox Hill

So I unholstered my new trekking pole, donned my sunglasses and set off.

The road ahead

It’s just over a mile to the point where the Ridgeway leaves the road again and you start the climb to Liddington Castle; most of it involves walking on the verge or on the road itself. I started to see people running in the opposite direction. Then more of them. Then lots and lots.

When I eventually left the road and set off uphill I encountered a checkpoint for the runners, and since there was a pause in their flow I stopped to ask the marshall what was going on. Apparently today was the day for an Ultra-runners’ 40 mile race along the Ridgeway from Overton Hill to Goring, and this was about the 15 mile point. Some 300 had set off, so clearly I wasn’t going to have a quiet walk, and I definitely felt that I was swimming against the tide! Most of these runners, after 15 miles, looked as fresh as daisies. But a few others looked like they’d had enough already. I hope they all made it. I said “Good morning” countless times.

At four miles on my walk, as I approached Ogbourne St George, the runners started to thin out, but there were more and more walkers, all heading in the opposite direction to me. But as soon as I passed the point the Ridgeway crosses the Ogbourne St George to Aldbourne road there were no more. They were obviously starting a day’s walk on the Ridgeway from Ogbourne and heading in the direction from which I’d come.

After this it was quiet, sunny and warm. Quite a beautiful walk round Ogbourne and along the ridge towards Barbary Castle. Smeathe’s Ridge just short of Barbary Castle is where I chose to stop for my lunch – a ploughman’s sandwich I’d picked up at Tesco in Swindon before I got on the bus. I’d encountered three horse riders, whom I helped through a gate, and 28 mountain bikers (they announced their number as they passed me, so I’d know when they’d all gone by) some of whom looked more terrified than others. Oh and a young Italian family walking in the sunshine. But otherwise it was quiet and beautiful.

After my lunch, a drink and a brief rest to get some blood back in my feet, I resumed my progress.

Smeathe's Ridge

Smeathe’s Ridge

Through the hubub that was Barbary Castle, where I found all my mountain biking friends having lunch at their cars, and once again I was on my own on the climb up to Hackpen Hill. I felt a few spots of rain. The rain held off for a little while, but then it got heavier. And heavier. And the walking got harder – this is a byway, so motor vehicles are allowed, and they’ve cut enormous ruts in the surface.

Rain and ruts

Rain and ruts

This makes it hard to find anything like a pleasant walking surface. But on I trekked. In the pouring rain. Until over one crest and there I could see the end of the walk – the A4 with heavy traffic on it – in the distance.

The end in sight

The end in sight

And after another mile, that was it. The end of the trail. A bit of an anticlimax really. There’s nothing but a car park, a small nondescript sign that says “Overton Hill” and a signpost pointing the way to Ivinghoe Beacon, 87 miles behind me.

Ivinghoe Beacon - 87 miles

Ivinghoe Beacon – 87 miles

So it was a further trudge of about two miles along a very wet road with no footpath to Avebury, for a pint (of Wadworth’s 6X – we’re in Wiltshire, what else?) and a deserved sit down while I waited for the bus back to Swindon to collect that pint from the manager of the Travelodge. That’s it.

One big thing on my “to do” list ticked off.

You are here. Overton Hill

You are here. Overton HIll

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easyJet Plus card – is it worth it?

October 22, 2015

Short answer: probably not.

If you fly more than 5 round trips (10 sectors) a year on easyJet, AND you book the most expensive allocated seats then it may be worth considering it. Otherwise don’t bother.

How do I know?

Well, I won one.

Yes, I entered a Twitter competition and won a free easyJet Plus card in October 2014. I’ve been using it for a year. It’s now renewal time. My question is – is it worth paying for?

my easyJet Plus card

my easyJet Plus card

At the time I won one, the price was £149 to join and £139 to renew. However during the year they’ve changed the Speedy Boarding and Plus Card rules, and the price has gone up to £170 per year (£160 if you join on board – but of course if you do that you have at least one flight where you can’t use it). And there’s no discount for renewal.

So in the year since I got the card would I have saved money? I’ve flown 10 sectors in that year, but two were before the card arrived so I couldn’t use it. So 8 sectors. Even if I had chosen the most expensive allocated seat (£15.99) on each flight then the current annual fee for the card significantly exceeds the amount I would have saved.

Surely there are some benefits you don’t get if all you do is pay for seat allocation?

Yes, but only fast track security. Not all airports have one, and we’ve found on at least two occasions that it’s faster at Gatwick (our normal originating airport) to go through regular security rather than Fast Track.

Shame there isn’t a Fast Track arrivals – that would be worth paying for!

But the other benefits: Speedy Boarding, two carry on bags and dedicated bag drop are all available to those who just pay for seat allocation either upfront or in an exit row. Most of mine would have cost £10.99 rather than £15.99, so I’d have had to fly 16 sectors to make it worthwhile – that’s twice as many sectors as I actually flew.

So for me a paid for easyJet Plus card doesn’t work. At the old renewal price of £139 I’d probably just have done it, but at £170 it really doesn’t make economic sense. And since there’s no discount for renewal, if I decide next year that I will be flying enough to make it worthwhile, I’ll simply join again – I can save money by not being a member when I don’t fly – and there’s no penalty for leaving and joining again several months later before your next flight.

Thanks for the freebie easyJet, I really enjoyed it. And I will occasionally miss using the fast track security, but overall it’s just not worth paying for. Sorry.

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Does London need a better concert hall?

February 19, 2015

There is much speculation in the classical music world about the future of Sir Simon Rattle. He has not renewed his contract with the Berliner Philharmoniker and so will leave in 2018. And since Valery Gergiev is leaving the London Symphony Orchestra later this year, much of the speculation is focussed on whether Sir Simon will return home to Britain and replace Gergiev. Read Sinfini on the speculation here.

However it seems that the price Sir Simon expects to extract before he confirms his appointment with the LSO is the commitment to London building a new (or replacement) classical concert hall with better acoustics than the Barbican, the current home of the LSO. There’s history here; he did the same in Birmingham when he was with the CBSO, and the city built him the Symphony Hall. This is reputed to be one of the finest concert halls in Europe. Its acoustics are, in my experience, magnificent. It kept him at the CBSO for a further 10 years and sparked the regeneration of both the cultural and commercial life of the city.

So is this going to happen in London?

Last night’s Evening Standard reckons that the burghers of the City of London have heard the appeal and are considering ways they can fulfil Sir Simon’s request. And London’s Mayor Boris Johnson is apparently also minded to hear the appeals favourably.

But Ivan Hewett in the Daily Telegraph adopts a contrary view, believing that while the major venues in London (Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall) may not have the best possible acoustics, the audience doesn’t go to concerts just for the acoustics but for the whole ambience and experience. His conclusion is that spending millions on a vanity project to bring Simon Rattle home to London isn’t necessary.

Unlike most of those commenting on Hewett’s article, I like Simon Rattle and his approach to music. I particularly like his interpretation of his, and my, favourite composer: Mahler. And yes, I went to two of Sir Simon’s concerts last week with the Berliner Philarmoniker, one at the Barbican and one at the RFH.

So is Sir Simon right? Well yes, I believe he is. I love going to concerts at the Barbican, but even I can hear that the sound there is “dull” compared to Birmingham Symphony Hall, or even the RFH since its recent refurbishment.

As he said recently, it’s an embarrassment that of all the major cities in Europe only London and Munich are without venues with great acoustics. Attending a concert at Birmingham Symphony hall with Andris Nelsons conducting the CBSO is a delight. And indeed Nelsons is high on the bookie’s list of contenders to replace Rattle at the BPO – Birmingham as a feeding orchestra for Berlin?

But could there be something else involved? Sir Simon said recently in his video biography broadcast on BBC Two recently that a conductor doesn’t really reach their prime until they are in their 60’s (he said 60 on one occasion and 65 on another) and the recent London Residency celebrated his own 60th birthday. But as those of us of a similar age are only too well aware, our hearing deteriorates with age. We just can’t hear those higher frequencies any more.

A former colleague of mine (also 60) who is a part-time music producer pointed out to me recently that younger listeners found the tonal balance on the recordings he was making was much “brighter” than they liked. He realised he was compensating for his own diminishing ability to hear the higher frequencies.

Is this Sir Simon’s problem? Is his age, and his own physiology, encouraging him to believe that concert halls need to have brighter, livelier acoustics than they really need? Considering the audiences for classical music, perhaps he’s still right – the average age of those attending the London Residency concerts last week must have been in the 50-70 range, so they would all benefit from better, brighter acoustics.

I remain optimistic that the City of London, the owners of the Barbican, with the wealth available to them will seriously consider either redeveloping the Barbican Hall, or building a new venue elsewhere in the City, and that we will welcome Sir Simon to the LSO in 2018.

According the the Evening Standard, the search for a site is already under way.

UPDATE: Today (19th Feb 2015) the Evening Standard reports that chancellor George Osborne has “thrown his weight” behind the project and asked for a feasibility study.