Newgate News

Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 31 July 2011

"Were you truly wafted here from paradise?"



Remember those adverts for...well, whatever it was... in the 1970's? Doesn't really matter anyway; the one thing everyone remembered was the punchline - "Luton Airport". There was even a single released to cash in on what became a national catch-phrase.

If easyjet have their wits about them, it might be an idea to try to recreate this phenomenon ahead of the launch next year of London's newest gateway to the sun; ladies and gentlemen, I give you....Southend International Airport.

Southend needs all the help it can get if it is to sell itself to the jet-setting public. Stuck out on a peninsula between the Crouch and the Thames estuaries, it will serve only the East End of London, a small part of rural Essex and an awful lot of fish - other travellers will surely use somewhere closer to home.

And, let's face it, despite its glorious past as the resort of choice for Victorian London, Southend is hardly a destination to make the heart sing - just ask JuliaM; the list of destinations suggest that, like Luton before it, Southend is somewhere you travel away from rather than towards.

So I suspect that it will feature in the in-flight magazine only as a staging-post on the way to London, a place to get out of as quickly as possible (rather like Luton, where in-flight announcements occasionally offer the on-board sale of tickets to St Pancreas station; a source of much ill-mannered amusement to some, I'm sorry to say).

Southend, then, needs a bit of a boost if it is to compete on a world stage and capture the public imagination, so how about a nice retro advert to launch the new service: a glamorous couple in an exotic location, possibly the cheesiest chat-up line ever and, of course, the obligatory punchline -

"Nah, Sarf-ehnd!"

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Two nations divided by a common language we may be, but anyone watching Torchwood this week - 'I think you mean ATM and gas station; oh, and we call them chips' - could be forgiven for thinking they were laying it on a bit thick.

One thing, however, that has not made it across the pond is a particular sort of wordplay. Spoonerism seems unknown (or the Pitt menage would surely never named their child Shiloh) and more people would recognize Klingon than Cockney rhyming slang; something abundantly illustrated by a shop window display that caused the Spouse much ill-mannered hilarity during a trip into town this morning.

The usual photos of WASPs frolicking on windswept New England beaches embellished a selection of items from Ralph Lauren's new label rejoicing in the title of 'The Big Pony'.

Didn't anyone check*? Surely among all the trendy types orchestrating Lauren's UK campaign, someone should have realised that when many Londoners use the word 'pony', they are not actually referring to equus ferus caballus - or even to the sum of £25 -  but to something altogether more fundamental.

Not exactly the image you want associated with your perfume, is it? Or perhaps it's only people like me and the Spouse - and Pavlov's Cat with another example - who find this sort of thing funny and as we aren't the target audience anyway, who cares?

*Those bemused by all this will find enlightenment in the section 'Rhyming slang and taboo terms' in Wikipedia's article. Rhyming slang is a constantly evolving form reflecting a certain dry humour; for example, the 1980s saw people referring to 'a Cynthia' when they meant a cane (following the trial of one Cynthia Payne for running a house of ill repute which catered for such interests).

Friday, 29 July 2011

Let them eat cake... or wear designer shoes

Did we fall into a parallel universe while I was away? While the front pages have been busy recounting the tragic events abroad - or speculating on the deeds of flame-haired Rebekah (43) - an event of truly staggering triviality has made the fashion pages.

The Olsen twins, famous for appearing on American television on a regular basis since birth before breaking into the fashion business, have turned up in a poverty-stricken part of Honduras on a mission of charity. So what might these Hollywood ladies bountiful be dispensing to the deprived children of the neighbourhood?

Why, shoes, of course! And what's more, designer shoes; the instantly recognizable iconic brand 'Toms' (nope, me neither), as worn by Hollywood's finest, apparently. Who needs food or education when you wear the same shoes as Knox Jolie-Pitt (brother, of course, to the Spoonerist's delight Shiloh Pitt)?

'...the Olsens travelled to Honduras to help fulfil the "One for One" ethos of the popular shoe brand: for every pair purchased, Toms give one pair to a child in need.'

The shoes in question - at least the limited-edition cashmere espadrilles designed by the twins' brand The Row - retail for around £125 a pair. Should Toms be philanthropically inclined, a cynic might argue, surely it would be better to use the money to purchase cheaper, more practical footwear and - here's a thought - endow an educational trust.

But where's the headline-grabbing USP? Far better to release photos of a pretty - if ironically undernourished (the Olsens are allegedly no stranger to eating disorders) - actress putting shoes on the feet of a deserving child; in this case, a matching pair giving added media appeal.

And thrown into the bargain, this utterly endearing quote from one or other of the fashionista moppets:

"Having the opportunity to be a part of something so meaningful has made the collaboration with Toms special to everyone at The Row."

It's a bit like the blessed Bono and his Armani sunglasses - 'buy these £750 shades and we give an African orphan a square meal; go on, you know it makes sense!' How nice to know that spending £125 on a pair of designer espadrilles means that, somewhere out there, a deprived child will soon be strutting about proudly in the latest fashionable footwear.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

London is Drowning

A hearty welcome back to Tavern regulars and my thanks to those who continue to drop in (except, of course, those looking for Ryanair hostesses in bikinis - you know who you are...)

Things are still not back to normal on the computer front though I am still reading the excellent output of the hardy souls named in the sidebar.

In fact, this return is prompted by my unsuccessful attempts to comment on a piece at The Cynical Tendency; Demetrius, channelling a stormy petrel rather than his vulture avatar, considers the possibility of water, water everywhere - at least in the Great Wen.

And that led me to wonder about the much-vaunted Olympic Park - how would that react to a potential meteo-tsunami of spring tide, low pressure and high winds funnelling a substantial part of the North Sea up the Thames?

Regulars will know that this scenario is played out in 'The Kraken Wakes'; Wyndham's description of the tense wait for the high tide to spill over the Thames embankments takes some beating. There is much made of the Olympic site's capacity to store excess rainwater but how about a barrier-topping tidal surge?

I suppose they have plans in place to ensure we aren't treated to the women's 4 x 4 paddle or the 100m splash - thought the rowers and swimmers should be fine - but I can't help wondering whether our friends in Vancouver, say, would be watching with interest - and perhaps a touch of uncharacteristic Schadenfreude...

Was it coincidental or prophetic, I wonder, that the Olympic bid was launched to the strains of the Clash and the apocaholic's anthem of choice, 'London Calling'?

The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in,
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin,
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
'Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river.