As a man in my early twenties, I have spent a number of evenings in the company of friends drinking inexpensive drinks in passable JD Wetherspoon’s pubs. From The Bright Helm in Brighton to The Diamond in Derry I have wet my whistle in numerous Wetherspoon’ses nationwide and while I wouldn’t count any of them as being the best example of Britain’s famous public houses, it is sometimes nice to know that you’re never far from a quiet, cheap drink.
One of the Wetherspoon’s pubs I have spent time in is a long and narrow boozer opposite Tooting Broadway tube station named J.J. Moon’s. I haven’t been in there since one time, while I was waiting for my friends, a drunken lady in her 50s came over to touch me on my face and tell me, apropos of nothing, that her son was apparently a helicopter pilot. I was sceptical and made a hasty exit as soon as possible.
I tend to assume that Wetherspoon’s pubs are named with some kind of local significance and don’t really investigate their meanings very much. That was until I was on the complete opposite side of London on a bus going through Wembley when I happened to catch sight of a JDW pub also named ‘J.J. Moon’s’. ‘That’s strange’ I thought. ‘I’m sure there’s a J.J. Moon’s in Tooting as well. Who is J.J. Moon?’. And so began some amateur sleuthing with an unexpected outcome… Read more…
Fairytale romance is the theme of this Rowntrees ad. It begins with an ordinary chap emerging from a corner shop with a pack of Fruit Pastilles only to be confronted by a gang on his way out.
Not a gang of feral youths with trackies and knives. No, a gang of medieval court entertainers with troubadours and knaves.
At the exact moment he puts a sweet into his trap, a goofy court herald informs us that a gentleman who can place a Fruit Pastille in his mouth without chewing on it will win a date with a fair princess. Sweets for a sweet. Sugar for a honey. It’s Hans Christian Anderson with gelatine substitutes. It’s clear that love is on the cards when their doughy-eyed grins meet (although the strangely similar-looking couple should consider researching their family histories first).
There are a few critical questions I have about this matchmaking technique. How long is the challenge meant to last? Does the bizarre street theatre group expect to stand around while the hero keeps a sweet on his tongue for the rest of time? Is he meant to prove himself a match by spitting a strawberry jelly into the gutter?
Realising that a date with an 11th century maiden is not worth falling into a paradox for, the suitor gives up and chews away. Hardly surprising given that most people purchase confectionery to eat it rather than just rest it in their gobs. If the Duchess is seeking a man who buys sweets but doesn’t actually consume them, she’ll probably be on the shelf for another 900-odd years. Maybe she should try going on Take Me Out or Sing Date. You just can’t have your cake and eat it, m’lady.
Review: If I paid for it, I can damn well chew it.
I am required to disclaim that this was originally published in The Guardian (The Guide supplement) on Saturday 10 March 2012. It is also available on guardian.co.uk. Int that lovely?
With flag-wavers set for a summer of Jubilee and Olympic revelry, some Brits will inevitably want to be as far away as possible from even a mere hint of bunting. However, global financial turmoil may have scuppered holiday plans. Like being in a distressingly long version of New Year’s Eve, you could end up either broke and stranded miles from home, or keeping up appearances while everyone arrives to party. It’s no wonder that this year’s campaign for Butlin’s is encouraging us to holiday at home.
In this latest TV ad, we see a young girl at the Bognor Regis resort bouncing around like Tigger in a Ladybird party frock. Her hops guide us from the upmarket seaview hotel on to golden Sussex sands and into a glistening swimming pool. Butlin’s isn’t just flogging an idyllic version of its holiday parks here. It’s dreamed up a utopian Britain where nobody queues for anything and the weather is Mediterranean. The ad execs must think viewers have never actually seen summer in the country we’re living in. A more sincere version would have mum and dad screaming at each other through a bathroom door while the kids play the popular game of “I-Spy (a way we can lose the security deposit)”. We’d see scenes of apologetic Redcoats closing the pool as “heavyweight jams” from a recent BangFace Weekender event are cleansed from the filters. Plus, it would royally piss it down over the Bognor skyline. Who needs Club Med?
Review: I was right about the weather.
Next time you’re out shopping, listen carefully to the music playing in store. There’s a chance that what you may be hearing is not what it seems.
A few years back, I was in WH Smith and suddenly found myself wondering what had happened to Jamelia’s voice on the version of ‘Thank You’ that was playing. Then I noticed that the backing track was all wrong too. It was the auditory equivalent of looking in a fairground mirror.
I gradually discovered that similar rip-offs of chart hits were also being played in B&Q, Peacocks and JJB Sports. What was going on?
Well, it’s all down to a very sneaky way of cost-cutting for cheapo retailers. If you’re a shop or a café or pretty much any public place the sound of silence can be a bit grim for your customers, which is why some places have in-store radio (like the wonderfully uplifting ASDA FM Live).
Others may choose to play normal FM radio, but that option runs the risk of your customers hearing competitors’ deals advertised in your shop.
Third option is to just play CDs over a sound system.
The problem with all these options, including just playing CDs, is that shops have to pay a licence fee to PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) in order to play music on the premises as it counts as a ‘public performance’. PPL collects the dosh and pays it to the performers of the songs as royalties.
The cost of paying the PPL licence for a chain of big stores can reach into the hundreds of thousands, which is where ‘poundshop pop’ is designed to come to the rescue. The companies that make these ‘sound-alike’ pop songs use unsigned singers and musicians, meaning that the tracks are exempt from receiving PPL money.
This means that the likes of Millets and Allied Carpets need only to buy the fake songs from the company that made them without worrying about a PPL licence.
In an ideal world, nobody would notice whether they were hearing Soundgarden or their sound-alikes. However, making a song sound identical to its original without the budgets of a major label is where the whole thing falls down.
As if the experience of being bombarded with oversized fashions in Matalan is not unpleasant enough, customers must also face renditions of hit pop songs that sound like they came from ‘Phoning It In Week’ on The X Factor. Read more…
Innocent Drinks are widely renowned as the light-hearted, sans-serif, soft-sell providers of whole fruit beverages. They practically invented that very 21st century way of whimsically branding products. Now supermarkets are filled with aisle after aisle of infantile drawings and anthropomorphic labels ‘chatting’ to shoppers: ‘Check out my ingredients’ say the bags of crisps; ‘Recycle me’ say the drinks cans; ‘Pop me inside you’ say the tampons. It’s all natter natter natter.
While supping on a smoothie and idly reading the childish scribblings on the side of the bottle (including ‘please keep me chilled’ and ‘shake it up baby’), I noticed that the product label has an unusual proposition.
‘Pop into Fruit Towers’. Now, lots of food labels have phrases like ‘we’d love to hear from you’ or ‘send us your suggestions’ but I tend to assume that most correspondence from the public gets filed under ‘recycling’. This is the first time I’ve seen an open invitation to a company’s HQ.
Surely Innocent don’t *really* want me to just ‘pop in’.
So last week, I went to find out. Read more…