“Last summer I was walking through an interminable caravan park atop a cliff in Norfolk when I began clocking the makes of the vans. There was the Windsor and the Coronation and the Aspen. Naturally, the Aspen, I said to myself as I plodded past its gemütlich net curtains, what could be better branding for a mobile home? The quaking aspen of North America – or Populus tremuloides – is noted for its spectacular autumnal display. The round leaves in myriad shades of red and yellow twist freely on their stalks, producing the heady illusion that the very earth itself is in motion. Oh yes, were I to be as free as Margaret Beckett, the Aspen would be the covered wagon for me.
“A few weeks later, I found myself in a friend’s kitchen while he was caramelising some sugar, and chanced to note the make of his gas cooker. It, too, was an Aspen. Aha, I thought to myself, that’s a pretty cool bit of branding for a hob – but the manufacturers are probably referencing the Colorado town rather than the tree. A Silver Boom mining camp that by 1893, within a decade of its foundation, boasted banks, a hospital, two theatres and electric lighting, Aspen was bust by the turn of the century. It didn’t resurge until after the Second World War, when it became a ski centre for the Rockies and subsequently an upscale tourist resort.”
Read the rest of Will Self’s The Madness of Crowds column, at the New Statesman, here.