(Friday 9th July 2010)
We have a new arrival today, a grey-haired old dear of ample proportions. I become fascinated with her special box of breakfast cereals. During my life-time the production and marketing of breakfast cereals has become big business.
When I was a little lad cereals didn’t exist as such, they were just called Kellogg’s Cornflakes – don’t forget to eat your cornflakes before you to school, Johnny. The general idea was that it was good for you like an-apple-a-day-keeps-the-doctor-away.
Then in the silly seventies came the sandals-and-socks brigade with their bowls of muesli and their fruit-n-nuts diets; the hippies joined in with their munchies then came the meat-is-murder brigade, then the feminists in their man-repellent boiler-suits, then the Liberal-Democrats and so on until at breakfast time from Notting Hill Gate to Shepherd’s Bush came the sound of munching, crunching and slurping – snap, crackle ‘n pop.
Then the advertising agencies took over and targeted children with pseudo-healthy products – Choco-pops, Golden Grahams, Sugar Puffs, Sweet-Weets and what not. The adults they sub-divided into the various demographic groups from female teenagers to weight-conscious young women and sensible husbands. At first the images and copy showed slim pretty young women with broad (triumphant) smiles, with the coy line that eating this product will keep you slim.
Over the years the copy gradually became more specific, urging the product onto folk because it made one’s «system» more «regular». And then the words bran and roughage entered our vocabulary and lastly the buzz-word was fibre. Because we were eating so much refined food – bread, sugar, ketchup, hamburgers and other such junk – our bodies were lacking in fibre, which was just fine with the cereal manufacturers because they were selling exactly that.
Back to the old dear and her packet of cereal. Its name (in bold sinister red lettering) said it all – FIBRE! (nice). Not very subtle, is it? I mean let’s not beat about the bush, let’s just cut to the chase and simply name the product HAPPY DUMP or even SHIT CONVERTER.
So I muse as I sip my black coffee.
Thoughts of such matters remind me of sitting in the Café Majestic in R. Santa Catarina some years ago, also sipping coffee on a warm summer afternoon. A rather stout middle-aged lady enters the café accompanied by her teen-age daughter and sits down opposite me. She is wearing a white T-shirt. I can’t help noticing that printed across her ample bosom is the simple (and baldly philosophical) statement in German: Ich Bin Schiesse.
Only the deeply embarrassing potential of the subject prevents me from going over to the lady and suggesting that the next time she buys a T-shirt while on holiday in Germany she should first understand the lettering.