The story of one woman's quest for custard has gone viral, turning Jules Serkin's search for a tin of Bird's Instant Custard Powder into the butt of many an online joke and an excuse for hundreds of custard-related puns on internet message boards and Twitter. For many commentators, the story symbolises the decline of the high street, the demise of home cooking, and, most of all, falling standards of local journalism.
Back on March 25 the Whitstable Times ran a 650-word story that began "A mum of three is dis-custard after a hunt for the dessert sauce in the town proved fruitless."
To some, the tale sums up the charm of local newspapers, to others the decision to run the story and its cheesy treatment demonstrate why local papers are in such trouble. Those commenting on the story have called for the sacking of both the reporter and editor. But another contributor, "General Custard of Blackberry Way", said the article was doing more to promote Whitstable than the local tourist board.
Now Serkin, a 43-year-old PR consultant, has defended her decision to go public on her custard quest. "I didn't expect all of this interest when I made the phone call, but I am proud because I really like custard," she told South West News. She also revealed that she's had messages of support from all over the world, including on proposal of marriage from a man in Alabama.
Six weeks after it appeared the story is still the most read on This is Kent, the website of a group of Kent newspapers, and it has attracted more comments than any other. John Nurden, editor of the Whistable Times, blamed fellow journalists for the sarky comments. "I sense fellow hack are just jealous of our eggs-clusives," he told Hold the Front Page.