Read why at the New Statesman here.
It is a cliche much beloved of the British that all things American are bigger. Of course this gee-whizzery doesn’t apply to every standardised object, and ever since the oil crisis of the 1970s there have been plenty of dinky little hatchbacks on US roads. Even so, there are occasions when even I – a demi-American – am stunned by its embrace of the gargantuan. One such occurred last summer, when Family Self arrived in Los Angeles. I had reserved a standard rental car, but as we waited, bleary-eyed, in the Alamo queue, I reflected on the huge amount of freeway driving I’d be doing and thought, sod it … when in Rome … so I requested an upgrade to an SUV.
“What used to freak me out about the repasts they prepared was their meaty mimicry: bean burgers, nut roasts and – worst of all – pizzas decorated with roundels of aubergine cut and cooked to resemble slices of pepperoni.”
I was talking to a small crowd of doctors a while back and came out with one of my favourite headlines from the US satirical magazine the Onion, which reads: “World death rate holding steady at 100 per cent”. Most of the medics dutifully chuckled at this evidence of their own lack of omnipotence – but one of them objected. “Strictly speaking, that isn’t true,” said the stethoscope-toting pedant. “Given that all the people currently alive constitute half of those who have ever lived, we can only confidently assert that the death rate is 50 per cent.”
“It’s billed at a flat rate, £50. Steep for a stopgap smackerel, but not quite so appallingly plutocratic if you treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet”
I’ve written before in these pages about the terms of my grandparents’ gustatory existence: born in the late 1880s, they stuck fast to their agglutinative Victorian roots by putting away three square meals every day, and a couple of hefty snacks hardly less angular. Even as a child I thought they must be involved in some strange act of religious mortification (my grandfather was a lay preacher and president of the Modern Churchmen’s Union) in so flagellating their own insides.
David Cameron entered office in 2010 as the leader of a coalition government committed to establishing “parity of esteem” between mental and physical illness in the NHS. Five years later, he’s back as PM, presiding over a majority Tory government, and just about everyone in the country who works with the mentally ill – including the patients – are quaking in their boots. Spending on mental health now comprises just 13 per cent of the NHS budget, while its so-called “disease burden” stands at 23 per cent. In other words, a fifth of all those treated by the NHS are suffering from some sort of mental pathology.
You are what you eat, after all, and anyone who eats a Peperami is, by definition, a sad little prick
It’s time to talk jerky! For too long now this column has pussyfooted around the issues and refused to give it to you, the reader, straight. The buck stops here. From now on we’ll call a spade like this: “Hey! Spade!” And when it comes we’ll use it to beat every cliché in the vicinity to death.
A film director friend of mine once explained to me the wherefores of successful film distribution in Britain: “It’s all down to your T-sides, Will,” he maintained. “Get your T-sides sorted or it doesn’t matter how many screens you open on, you still won’t get the bums on seats.” I had no idea at the time what a T-side was, but ever since he told me I’ve seen them everywhere. Often a T-side will glide across my field of vision when I’m least expecting it – supplanting my view of the Holloway Road, for example, with the winsome spectacle of a giant Carey Mulligan, red-cheeked and wind-tousled against a Wessex backdrop.
There are many ways of going for a walk; my friend Antony and I have been walking the length of the Hoo Peninsula for over a decade now. Obviously we haven’t been promenading non-stop – from Gravesend in the west to Grain in the east is only about 20 miles’ comfortable strolling – but doing it in instalments. We did the first leg around 2005: out along the Thames’s south bank to the weird Second World War ruins at Lower Hope Point; then inland, skirting Cliffe marshes to the village itself. While we were waiting for the minicab to come and take us back to Gravesend we committed to completing the walk, but what with one monumental artwork on Antony’s part and another modernist novel on mine, it was only a fortnight ago that we finally returned.
For the past fortnight or so, I have been much exercised by the handsome “personalised spoon offer” that Kellogg’s has had blazoned on its Rice Krispies boxes. My youngest and I decided we very much wanted a spoon with our own slogan engraved on it and he began working on the words while I set about eating enough of the desiccated little blebs to justify buying the two further boxes we needed to obtain the “secret code numbers” required to unlock the spoon trove. On the back of these boxes are winsome pictures of happy new spoon-owners – but we were dismayed at their lack of imagination. All their spoons were simply personalised with their names (Carol, Keisha, Tarquin, et al) and the Kellogg’s cartoon brand mascots, whereas we were thinking of something surreal and subversive, such as: “Which orifice? Your choice.”