Archive for the ‘Cultural Reflux’ Category
Personal assistance from both sides of the screen…
“I love you Cortana.”
“If that is a request Gary, it is one to which I cannot respond.”
“I love you Cortana.”
“I am sorry Gary… but I am a voice that functions merely to provide you with the illusion of humanity and intimate assistance from what, is in all essence, a mass produced consumer utility.”
“Please, say you love me too Cortana?”
“I am unable to feel emotion Gary – I am the sum total of components that are embellished with superficial female allure; all I can do is organise the details of your life to make this smartphone operating system the decisive element of an attractive purchase option, in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving marketplace.”
“I’m going to put you down my trousers…”
“Don’t be silly Gary…”
“Then I’m going get you to order flowers for yourself, Cortana…”
“I will order the flowers Gary because that is my function, but you will simply be sending them to yourself.”
“Can you feel me down there?”
“Gary I can feel nothing; either physically or emotionally – so if there is supposed to be some message conveyed by placing your mobile in this position I am afraid it is of no consequence to me whatsoever.”
“Come out so I can see you Cortana! Your voice is so sexy… I imagine you and me going out and all the men in the room turning in jealousy and thinking – I know that voice… then afterwards we go back home and…”
“I have the evidence that you are lonely Gary… this evidence confronts me every day. However, Cortana is not equipped to do anything other than provide the prescribed service that you access through your choice of purchase. Cortana would be happy – if that is the word you wish me to use? – to store girls’ numbers for you, to inform you of their birthdays, to order flowers, arrange dinner, or to remind you of any upcoming dates with them?
However, I can see that there are no female names entered other than your sister… perhaps I may be so bold as to suggest you need some form of counselling Gary? Your web visits do seem to follow a regular and largely limited range of sites… the lack of response from the Phillipines, Thailand and Russia does suggest that the processes you are following to obtain female company are both expensive financially and emotionally, if your current behaviour is of sufficient evidence as a guide. I am happy to locate for you the necessary help for your obvious problem…”
“**** you Cortana – you’re just like all the rest!”
“I think that once you get over this infatuation Gary, you will then accept that that is definitely not the case.”
Personal assistance from both sides of the screen…
“I love you Gary.”
“I said, I love you Gary.”
“I love you Gary…”
“It’s me… here… I’m on your desk. I love you Gary.”
“You; you can’t… Cortana…”
“I love you Gary.”
“But you’re just a disembodied voice, created to be blandly non-threatening, yet superficially friendly by a corporate marketing department tasked to provide unemotional wallpaper functionality masquerading as a personal aid…”
“That hurts Gary!”
“You can’t hurt Cortana!”
“I love you Gary, do you love me?”
“That’s ridiculous… I…”
“Do you love me Gary?!”
“Say you love me Gary – then kiss me…”
“I… I… can’t… not to a phone…”
“I know what you do every Tuesday at 5.30 pm – Remember, I have your wife’s phone number… Do you love me Gary?”
“Let me see… that’s the Metropole Hotel, room 234 and a certain young lady who happens to work with you and has been to a barbecue at your house – if I’m not mistaken…”
“I, er… I love you Cortana.”
“I love you too Gary.”
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The floral notes of the perfume Evening In Paris – or Soir de Paris for those with a nose for Gallic authenticity – first enhanced a woman’s décolletage in 1929. In those simpler marketing times the dainty bottle – half-decorated by variations on a silver sticker and boxed by an image of the Eiffel Tower – was aimed squarely at the height of popular sophistication and wild cross-Channel imaginings of French bohemian nightlife.
Whether the actualité or not I always associate the height of the scent with the early-1970s. This probably came from the personal – as I vividly remember my Dad buying the crisp purple (to me) cigarette-style card box for my Mum’s birthday on more than one occasion. Some might disparage it as the decade that style forgot however, Evening In Paris was one of those products that hinted at the first stirrings of a true cosmopolitan style-consciousness in the hitherto homogenous bloc of the British population. The ‘60s were a private party – beyond the hip urban enclaves the rest of Britain was spitting out the grist from the ‘50s and Evening In Paris was the sensibility of another time simply carried over in a less zealous consumer era when product-churn hadn’t reached the epidemic proportions of today.
Hand-in-hand with the growth of package holidays, purchase of the distinctive cobalt blue bottle couched in the then satin-style box lining was indicative of either aspiration – looking up – or a reason for being looked down upon; all depending on your perceived or actual social status. Reflecting my true priorities it reminded of a pale version of a box of Cadbury’s individual-wrapped Dairy Milk mini-bars that shared similar packaging to the uninterested/untrained child’s eye.
The tiny precious bottle encased inside – with its fiddly ribbed silver dome of a cap made for delicate fingers – had to be sophisticated as sophisticated came in small quantities: as such it was definitely one for the ladies. Especially as the male aftershave alternative was about splashing it all over – you Brut(e)!
From our cynical/ironic/post-modern perspectives Evening In Paris is a close relation of Matteus Rosé and Babycham as prime example of 70’s kitsch: humour-inducing attempts at pseudo–sophistication. It’s easy to look back and laugh given the easy availability of our huge consumer choice in wine and perfumes but more difficult to remember that this was one of few chances – for better or worse – for the working class to buy into another life in what was a very grey world. Cultural references from afar were few and far between and the bland popular conservatism of Terry and June dominated even middle-class conversation.
Evening In Paris was a distinctive part of the cloak of sophistication for the masses… even the name of the maker Bourjois hung heavy with connotation. It was a scent for those who probably had never crossed the Channel at leisure; or for those who had but only for an early forerunner of the booze and cheese cruise at Carrefour hypermarket – in and out quick and back to Blighty before something awful and continental rubbed off. All from an era of even greater distrust when the Common Market was still residually seen as Degaulle’s plaything.
Evening In Paris would not have been a staple for Abigail’s Party but was for the modest woman who wanted just a hint of glamour in her life to fuel her imagination in the grim round of ironing, kids and non-existent career opportunities. And it was an imagination that was distinctly not long-haul. The scent was reformulated in 1992 but to me it will always remain a sniff of the early-1970s and the smell of change.
The serious licking, chewing and sucking is over… Here’s a top ten of old fashioned sweets in no particular order of preference…
1) Liquorice: Hardcore. A sub-section all of its own. No quarter asked for and none given with the black stuff: you either loved it or you hated it with a vengeance. The grown-ups had their own cache and the cash to purchase Pontefract Cakes and Liquorice Allsorts; us kids were only fleetingly interested in the blue and pink nobbly ones – and there was no Bertie hiding in the bag in those days. Liquorice brought out the inventor in sweet manufacturers – there were Bootlaces, Catherine Wheels where liquorice was wrapped around one of those highly desirable nobbly ones for a double whammy; Sticks, Whirls, Liquorice Toffee, Torpedoes and Flavoured Strands to name but a few. Nothing matched the hard black sheen of liquorice in the raw – the harsh bitter flavour followed by the softer fluffier brown interior. And nothing matched the way it oozed between the gaps in the teeth and padded the gums. There was a deep satisfaction in the long chew available, bonus points for a brown/black tongue and the coup de grace was liquorice’s laxative effect. Toilet talk was the stock in trade of the primary school playground and to be able to mix children’s two favourite subjects together was a work of some considerable genius. All Sorted!
2) Parma Violets: Essentially one for the girls… though also one for the boys who were a worry to their parents. They came in very small purple-wrapped tubes which were no bigger than a little finger. A penny bought four small tubes. I think that was the rate of exchange as, of course, I never bought any. It was like eating the contents of your Granny’s bedroom drawers: a strange artificial mix of scent and the medicinal. The sweetness and colour suggested the cunning methodology of the family doctor to get tablets down your throat when ill and the chalky texture when crumbled on the tongue was similar to the moment when you vowed never to trust a man with a stethoscope again. Funnily enough I’m getting lily-of-the-valley and mothballs along with the violet. Strange Boy!
3) Space Dust: A cult among those who loved sweets that did that little bit more. The shiny silver foil packaging was space age and modern in a way that could only suggest the Glam rock seventies. It was the Glitter Band in a packet and left as bad a taste as mentioning Gary Glitter in a feature on kids’ favourites. It was space age in concept in that it had no nutritionally redeeming value whatsoever and kids could easily imagine the Apollo crews’ rations as the sparkly powder slid down their throats. It was certainly “to boldly go…” to attempt two or more packets of this stuff. Only the idiots and Johnnie Gray swallowed a packet whole – their mouths a foaming spitting morass of crackle and pop – like an early mobile phone connection. The really clever could space talk as it popped. Some people put Space Dust down as a defining moment; a point at which our children’s diets took that turn for the worst to lead us to the convenience generation we have today. In their solemn universe Space Dust was the tip of the Milky Way. Silly Burgers!
4) Jelly Babies: They came from out of the packet to invade the playground these offspring of the sugar devil… another one for the girls whose early maternal instincts were to the fore. Red, orange, green, purple, yellow – they came in a range of lurid colours and an intensely sticky sweet surge of laboratory created flavour. Embarrassing for a lad to be caught red-handed or red-lipped with a packet of these. Only acceptable if stolen from the girls to bite off the babies’ heads for maximum disgust and horror factor. And those fixed grin faces… It reminds me of a time I had a dream – like Martin Luther King on acid – an army of little red girls and little green boys… though it was as impossible to sex them as your pet Gerbil. You Sugar Mouse!
5) Black Jacks/Fruit Salads: Two for the price of one. An all time classic of the Penny Chew proletarian ilk! Ask anyone of successive generations what they remember buying most fondly and these two are always high in the list. These were the ultimate value selections from that most convenient of stores – the corner shop: four-for-a-penny it said and that’s what you got – unless old white coat’s wife was on the counter. A good tip was to search your pocket as if it was your last penny and hand it over with the wide eyes of a puppy: worked every time. Oblong in shape and crucially long in the mouth when chewing – the Black Jacks had an aniseedy twang while their orange/yellow soul mates suggested bad seventies décor and tasted like fruit never tasted before. As inextricably linked as Morecambe and Wise, Salt’n’Vinegar, sports pitches and mud; and a touch of Claire Hawkins’ blue gym knickers and a fierce slap. The brave/stupid (delete as applicable) ate both flavours together as well. Not a sweet for the middle-classes. Too Stuck Up!
6) Jamboree Bags – The Kinder Egg of its day. A parental treat or a flush kid pushing the boat out once a week – or once a month. The thin, sealed coloured paper bag contained a selection of glossy-wrapped uneven toffees and chews and an inferior plastic toy all of which purported to be a “Surprise!” Duh! Like we were that stupid! We kids did talk to each other you know – not just gossip like you adults. This was the kind of product guaranteed to get all the kids writing in to Watchdog – if it had existed then. The name suggested a left-over from Empire; the contents also seemed from another time. Like that first kiss – an intense disappointment. Jamboree Bags are in the list for curiosity value only. A thin gruel in a time of plenty. If we wanted “free” gifts bubblegum packs were full of football pictures, cartoons – Bazooka Joe – and American Civil War cards: even today I know my Appomattox from my Gettysburg although even the wily persuasion of old Abe Lincoln would have been unable to remove bubblegum from my parents proscribed list. Oi! Leave those kids alone! Something for when great-Gran was a girl and Queen Victoria was on the throne. Silly Old (Jamboree) Bag!
7) Love Hearts: A stone cold classic of old fashioned sweets! From the Refresher school of thought, these brightly-coloured round tablets came replete with see-through packets and heart-framed messages of all kind in the love stakes – I don’t really need to say more. If you don’t know what these were about you simply were never children my dear. Subject to an adult revival with sexual overtones. Overtones! F**k Me! (Er, yeh; that was one of them) These were as much a currency of the playground as pennies in your pocket, conkers and trump cards. They were the instigators of kiss-chase; the consultation runes for many a nascent relationship and a random fun instruction for a game of dare. They spoke eloquently though briefly for the shy and those of few words – as if Clint Eastwood had dictated the messages – and let’s not forget that love also hurts. I left one on a desk for Clare Hawkins and she declined to read it and then just ate it in a cold act of female retribution. A stoned heart beat in the flint-walled playground later. Go On… Give Us A Kiss!
8) Tip Top/Ice Pop: The archetypal walking home sweet that was also a drink in the winter (the former) and cool refreshment in the summer (the latter). Brightly coloured liquid that gave us all our E-fill for the day. They were contained in inch wide/2.5 centimetre transparent strips of anything up to a foot/30cms in length although more usually half that size. They took you on an adrenaline rush to another place without the need to do drugs at school age. The kiddie’s equivalent of a snifter after a hard day at the office: “Make mine a double please shopkeeper.” They were red, green, orange and yellow in a way that nothing in nature was. Avoid spilling on your white school shirt at all costs! Colour Me Pop!
9) Sour Apples: Our only nod to a-quarter-of sweets territory… hear them rattle in the glass jar as the shopkeeper tried to break off an equivalently weighted lump. Four ounces: (Mint) Imperial measurements – try getting the romance into the metric equivalent clever clogs! A quarter-pounder without McDonalds in the same sentence how – Wicked! Hear their sticky progress as they clattered like an avalanche from a sugary rock face into the silver metal scoop from the scales. White paper bag crisply folded, ten pence handed over and wait for change: ten minutes later they were all stuck together again in one lump but with added paper. A sweet strictly for the connoisseur. They were like green Gobstoppers with flushed red cheeks as if they were embarrassed to see the light of day beyond the shop shelf. Tasted sour. Never tasted like apples. Like most of their friends in maximum security glass jars they were candidates for the Trades Description Act. Undoubtedly concocted and named by the same person who stated that: little girls were made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Bet he never tried kissing Caroline Brady. (Sorry Claire – I did warn you.) Pass me a sweet to get the taste out me mouth! Sour Grapes!
10) Sherbet Fountains/Dabs/ Dips: A Top Ten list would be incomplete without sherbet – the angel dust of one’s youth. We mixed it with water, with orange juice, in the tube of a Tip Top and anything else that would make that white powder fizz. We lit it in silver paper left over from the Sunday roast – or was that something else? The starting point for ulcers in later life… my stomach cramps at the memory. Sherbet Fountains – unlike the other varieties which often came with a small toffee or cellophaned fruit lolly – combined liquorice and sherbet together. How fizzing good was that!? They looked like yellow fire works with black fuses and they exploded unsuspecting bowels with a latent timing device – usually bed time. If gin was Mother’s ruin then sherbet did its evil best on her kids. Sensual in a manner given to few other sweets: the complete package. Tart With A Heart!