20 things I don't want to know
Britain's firms are out to boost business by copying the Sun and
getting their prices down.' Well, according to the Sun they are,
anyway. It puts falling prices down to a 'lesson in Sun-economics' - in
this case, the paper's price war with the Mirror. The main casualty
so far seems to have been the Sun's sub desk, whose slogans ('You
get plenty for your 20', etc) fall well below the usual standard. The sacred
front-page headline was simply a giant 20p.
The stunts arranged around the 20p theme are also somewhat tawdry, even
compared to 1991's notorious 'Up yours Delors!' rally in Trafalgar Square,
which attracted three supporters and one opponent (myself). So we were told
that the village of Twenty in Lincoln was 'swamped by excited tourists as
the price-busting Sun's 20-mania swept the country'. Punters were
buttonholed in high streets up and down the land for on-the-spot endorsements.
PC Jeffreys in Bristol declared the Sun to be entertaining and interesting,
while his partner PC Huckle claimed 'it tells you everything you need to
The readers' messages of support (dotted about the paper under the logo
'I love my 20p Sun') are more transparently bogus. Most purport to
be from Mirror readers who have just read the Sun for the
first time and switched loyalties. Some, however, are written in verse and
have the authenticity of madness about them. 'Friends in my neighbourhood
call me Top Gun/ They know I'm wild when I haven't read my Sun' begins
the poem of a sad man called Rob Ahern from Northampton.
It was Mr W Gifford of Gravesend who intrigued me, though. His ode to the
price cutting heroes ends with the lines: 'Forget the toffs who con us rotten/
It's the Sun that sticks up for folk at the bottom.' Such polemical
talent deserves a regular outlet, I feel. Perhaps I can point Mr Gifford
in the direction of a less successful tabloid competitor of the Mirror
which may wish to use his doggerel in the service of its ground-breaking
catchphrase: 'So-cialist Worker! O-o-nly 40p!'
Opponents of Fergie's short-lived appointment as a UN ambassador objected
that she would use her position for self-promotion, and complained that
she has been outspoken about atrocities which she has never seen, and subjects
which she knows nothing about. I find it surprising that this should be
considered a disadvantage. Perhaps she should look for a job in a field
where this talent will be better appreciated. I can think of several foreign
affairs editors who might be able to help.
It's nice to hear that the 'toffs who con us rotten' aren't having things
all their own way. Lady St
Oswold has staged the first aristocratic car boot sale, at which one of
her mink coats was touted as a 'loss leader' for £30. The front gate
of the Old Vicarage, Granchester, home of the eminent novelist Lord Archer,
displays a sign offering a divan and mattress for £50. Most distressing
of all, the Queen Mother - no doubt disoriented by the 'brain pills' which
Barbara Cartland gives her to 'keep her young' - was seen parting with the
best part of a week's pension at the Sandringham Flower Show's white elephant
stall. Her purchases included a children's cardigan for £6 and a £3
Yet amid the scrimping and saving, there are, as always, islands of prosperity.
Or so Harrods seems to believe. It now sells dark green bin bags stamped
with the gold company logo at £3.20 for 10. The attached label reads:
'What does a Harrods rubbish bag say about you?' For once, words fail me.
Leaving aside the political implications of the government's Aids awareness
campaigns, I always
wondered what Mr Gummer and the rest made of the high-profile discussions
of anal sex, etc. Now a report offers a tantalising glimpse of their trauma.
A DHSS official is quoted as saying that one minister closely involved in
the campaign 'had real problems', being 'deeply ignorant' about sexual matters
and unable to pronounce the word 'vagina'. A discussion about gays revealed
that another minister didn't know what oral sex was. When told, he said:
'They don't, do they?'
Things were apparently even worse for the chief medical officer Sir Donald
Acheson, who tried to avoid any discussion of such matters, and had to be
cornered on a train from Newcastle by DHSS officials keen to discuss the
pros and cons of 'water sports', 'rimming', and so on. As one of them recalls:
'Business people were looking over as they wandered through to the buffet
or the lavatory. So it was very difficult to pin him down.' It is not clear
whether this refers to a practical demonstration. I would be interested
to hear from any photography enthusiasts who 'wandered through' the compartment
A while ago I alerted readers to 'Well Done!', a disagreeable statuette
of a cherubic boy on a potty,
manufactured by the reputable Royal Doulton china company. I am dismayed
to learn that Royal Doulton is no stranger to such controversy, having received
complaints from angry mums about its 'Bunnykins' nursery tea set. When curious
toddlers asked what the bunnies depicted on the plate were doing, parents
were horrified to discover a pair of rabbits apparently indulging in a practice
familiar only to the more broadminded cabinet minister. Although the rabbits'
trousers are long since a memory, their jackets clearly indicate that they
are both male, and a third (also male) is assisting from behind.
Far from expressing shame or regret, Royal Doulton decided to tough it out,
claiming that the rabbits were drawn by a nun in the 1920s (as if that's
any comfort). A spokesman offered the usual excuse that the picture had
been 'taken out of context', and is a detail from a larger picture of a
'tug-of-war'. Having seen many tug-of-war displays by the finest teams in
Britain (ie, Her Majesty's forces) I cannot recall ever witnessing these
kinds of antics. I suggest they go tell it to the marines.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 59, September 1993