Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Met up with Raoul on Wednesday. We had dinner in the Palmeston ( a great pub restaurant) in Lordship Lane while Lisa sat at home and had to do some work. He was in London doing some pointless paperwork for the Natural History Museum before jetting off to his next bone-digging assignment in South Africa – on a quest for Permian fossil fish. He arrived in a leather fedora hat, but claims never to have seen an Indiana Jones movie.

Personally, I don’t believe him.

This Saturday was Jane and Dan’s birthday – featuring their annual Hastings barbecue – which basically means lots of cava, Dan acting as DJ with all the latest gismos and Jane and I ending up cooking most of the food in the oven before bunging it on the BBQ for five minutes. This is generally because neither of us eat meat, so we don’t have a clue how to cook it – and with Dan making music and Lisa introducing George to all the guests, we’re trying not to kill anyone…

An hour or so after George was put to bed and with the baby alarm safely in the DJ room, we hadn’t heard anything from him. I went upstairs just to check and found him crying his head off. Unfortunately I’d put the alarms the wrong way round so instead of us being able to hear him crying, he was listening to a well mixed selection of 80’s classics.

I met Jane’s Dad for the first time and he spent much of the night telling Gareth and I about the preceding 40 years…. Apparently, when Jane was a baby, he was working full time, but in his spare time, he was building a house for his family. No kidding – building it from scratch without help (he got a plumber and an electrician in, but that was it). It took him 18 months. Oh- I forgot to mention his other job – working nights as a DJ on the pier as a warm up act to bands. In fact all the well known bands of the early 70’s – from the Stones onwards. Jane tells me that his main hobby (like you need a hobby when you’re doing all that) is reading – but he’s got a bit bored with his local library having read everything in it.

Lisa and I went to bed tired – but knowing that the following morning George would wake us up at the normal 7:30am… You can’t ever sleep in with a baby, but for some reason that never occurs to you the previous night….

In preparation for the BBQ, we spent Friday night in Worthing (Lisa went in the morning, and I met them from the train after work – I had a late evening conference call with someone in California who wanted to talk about fairies – specifically animated ones). We took Lisa’s parents out to dinner – mainly because we know they’re about to have their house taken over by Sally and the kids and because Lisa’s mum has offered to help Lisa out with organising the refurbishment of her new house. The restaurant was full, but half way through the evening when we were waiting for our starters, I suddenly looked round and noticed that absolutely nobody in the place had any food… Eventually, it did all appear.

George is starting to make a real effort to communicate – he now waves and makes faces and claps in direct response to you. He obviously now know that communicating with people is important and he’s trying his best to crack the speech code.

At swimming, he also managed to hold onto the side of the pool on his own – which I guess is useful if he wants to avoid drowning. However, he’s a little too eager to let go and dive off for another length

Coke is it
I think there’s a shift going on…. It used to be – in the 60’s and 70’s that new was good. Everything new and scientific was heralded as great – so if your car was built by robots, it was a better car and if your food had chemicals in, then it must necessarily be better for you. This obsession with everything new pervaded the whole of society.

Then things changed – I don’t know how, or when, but suddenly, traditional was best and natural was wholesome. Nowadays, bread and cheese has to be “artisan” before it’s considered good. A hand made car is thought to be better made than one assembled on a production line and if your food has anything in it that can’t be called natural then it’s considered poisonous.

This obsession with the natural is as absurd in its own way as the obsession with futuristic man made rubbish in the 60’s. Deadly nightshade is just as natural as potatoes – and it’s sustainably “native” to the UK (no air-miles there) – but that doesn’t make it good for you. Likewise many E numbers are natural components of home grown food.

It’s as if we can’t handle the idea of things being a bit more complicated than simply science bad, nature good…I’d wondered how we made that switch of obsessions, but I think I can see it happening again.

Advertisers of things that are plainly not natural or wholesome have started leaping on the bandwagon – and the most recent one is Coke who’s new adverts are claiming that it’s made from only natural ingredients.

This is plainly a load of old pants and you wonder why they’ve spent millions on an advertising campaign that’s so transparently unbelievable.

However, what the advert really does is to devalue that whole “natural is great” claim – with everyone now claiming their stuff is wholesome and un-messed-with, the natural claim becomes so diluted it’s no longer worth making, and advertisers can – with a little time gap start claiming their products are “improvements on nature” again.

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