Up The Hill Backwards…

I saw a video clip on the Telegraph online page today (Tuesday) showing a “Drunk Japanese business man” trying to walk the wrong way down an up escalator on the London underground. It seemed a good metaphor for much of my adult life, but that’s not the thing that worried me most about the clip – it was the fact that the helpful person behind him thought the most appropriate response was to use his phone to video the poor bastard rather than to step in and help him. That seemed a fitting metaphor for modern life generally, and a telling indication of how society as a whole has taken a wrong turn and found itself heading in the wrong direction.

The clip lasted for about two and a half minutes, during which time the bloke with the camera, a gentlemen by the name of Sam Napper according to the Telegraph, did absolutely fuck all to help. He (Sam) is credited with saying; “At first I thought he was playing silly buggers with a few of his FX Trader mates but when we saw his dogged stagger and realised he was alone, I knew we were about to witness something truly brilliant.” Is it just me, or does Sam Napper sound a bit of an arsehole?

A few of the people travelling up the escalator the right way did try to help the man, but the vast majority simply ignored him or barged past shouting obscenities. At one point in the soundtrack you can quite clearly hear a significant crowd standing behind and around the cameraman spurring the Japanese traveller on with chants of “Goo on, my son – faster, faster.” From their laughter I guess that would have been “truly brilliant” entertainment too.

Fortunately for our drunk businessman one particular young lady coming up the stairs seemed determined to help him, firstly by stepping back on the escalator and trying to turn him round and then, when that didn’t work, by trying to talk and sign to him from the sidelines. She was also the only person there with the intelligence to realise that stopping the escalator, as someone had suggested (perhaps the member of staff who briefly appeared and then disappeared again?), would lead to him pitching forward and falling headlong down the staircase. Or maybe she was just the only person there who didn’t think that would add to the fun?

Eventually, with the girl talking to him and pointing him in the right direction, a teenage boy, who appeared to be a friend of the girl’s, managed to grab the man’s jacket and gently guide him to safety. I imagine that simple act of charity ruined Sam Napper’s day – he was probably hoping for a more dramatic climax that would have made his production more appealing to YouTube viewers and earned him thirty seconds of fame on a shite TV clips show hosted by Alex “Would-you-ever-grow-tired-of-punching-him-in-the-face?” Zane.

They say God look’s after drunks and small children, but if ever I find myself in that kind of situation I hope there’s a couple of youngsters around to help me, because God, the station staff and the vast majority of commuters caught on camera seemed anything but inclined towards helping. As for Sam Napper, I think he should have his video-phone rammed up his arse. Now that would be truly brilliant.

As I finished writing the above it occurred to me that not so many years ago the papers would probably have made a joke about the Japanese traveller’s name being “Wong Wei” or something, but in these politically correct times that would be considered offensive. I think that’s another telling indication of how we are going in the wrong direction, because generally I find name based puns far less offensive than the kind of choices made by the vast majority of onlookers appearing in this video clip. I think they were way, way wrong 😉

CHOCOLATES? SMALLTEASERS…

In another piece of groundbreaking investigative journalism Tuesday’s Telegraph also ran a story about shrinking chocolate bars, commenting on data released by the government’s Office of National Statistics revealing that “the size of our chocolate bars and bags of sweets have reduced by as much as 10 per cent in the past year.” Now I’m not a big chocolate eater these days, but I have to say this didn’t come as much of a surprise to me, and in fact confirmed a long held belief of mine that dates right back to childhood.

Conspiracy theories regarding Wagon Wheels are nothing new, of course, and have even been the inspiration for comedy sketches by the likes of French & Saunders, but until today (well, Tuesday) the official line has always been that it was a case of one’s hand getting bigger rather than the chocolate bar getting smaller.

The WW Conspiracy: a trick of perspective, or marketing man’s con?

This, frankly, has never really rung true to me, because I seem to have distinct memories of buying my first ever Curly Wurly and having to walk home with it tucked under my arm like a window cleaner’s ladder. By the same token, I also recall buying lengths of toffee called ‘everlasting strips’ which made the trip back from Jack Wilson’s sweet-shop look like a scene from Eric Sykes’ silent classic The Plank.

Give the sweet manufacturers their due, they’ve been incredibly clever with regard to marketing, blurring the boundaries to put us off the scent over the past decade or so with “Fun Size” (ha!) variations of established chocolate bars as well as bigger versions of (i.e.) Snickers and Mars bars, and in recent years even giant versions of various confections for sharing (ha!) at Christmas. What they don’t make clear is that the “Giant Toblerone” you’re buying in 2012 is actually the same size as the standard bar in 1969, and that if adjusted for inflation you’re actually paying around three times the cost for the same quantity of chocolate. Probably.

I think the first chocolate I really noticed this downsizing with was the Topic bar made by Mars. Had it not been for their advertising campaign of the 70’s (“What has a hazelnut in every bite?”) and the accompanying joke (“Squirrel shit!”) which made the slogan so memorable I might not have noticed, but given my habit of sucking choccie bars as a kid rather than just chewing them I couldn’t help but notice that while they continued to live up to the promise of a nut in every bite the total number of nuts per bar increasingly diminished. Simple maths (the only kind of maths of which I’m capable) could only lead me to one conclusion – less nuts equals less chocolate.

While the general downsizing of chocolate bars is undoubtedly a cause of distress for individual consumers there is one far greater implication, if the scenario extends to Mars bars, of global concern. For decades now financial markets have recognised that [to quote the FT] “When historic prices and incomes are expressed in Mars Bars (MB) they display consistency and reassuring stability”, so if the MB as a reliable unit of currency is undermined it could send the entire planet into a chocolate-dip recession, throwing the market into complete meltdown. They used to say “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” but will this still be viable as unemployment soars and more and more families are forced into levels of poverty that exclude all but the most basic leisure pursuits? As an advertising slogan “A Mars a day helps you rest” seems somewhat lacking, but as a reflection of today’s society and a model for tomorrow’s it seems increasingly relevant.

It can’t be long now before we’re seeing three fingered Kit-Kats on our sweet-shop shelves and our children are buying Ice-Cream cones topped with tens and hundreds rather than hundreds and thousands. Should we switch our allegiance from Mars bars and put our faith in designer cupcakes and the new wave of micro-entrepreneurs marketing them, or are they merely responsible for destabilising the economy even further – a symptom rather than the cure? Regular readers of my blog will, I’m sure, have no doubts regarding my own views on the latter.

“Let them eat cake” said Marie Antoinette, and look where she ended up…

See “The Hackenthorpe Book of Lies” p. 17 for full story
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