WELCOME TO THE DRAYTON BIRD BLOG - Commonsense about marketing, business and life

Leave now if easily shocked or politically correct. Otherwise, please leave your comments. Statements such as "brilliant", "hugely perceptive", "what a splendid man" and "can I buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice" are all greeted with glee.

If you like, I'll e-mail you each new dollop of drivel when I publish it. Just click here to subscribe. If you want to succeed faster, get my 101 helpful marketing ideas, one every 3 days. People love them - maybe because they're free. Go to www.draytonbirdcommonsense.com and register. You also a get a free copy of the best marketing book ever written

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

What's all this "we" shit about, SuperToad?

I have two good jokes for you today, gentle readers.

It is now 12 years since the Bliar promised to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. Today, like a dog returning to its vomit Gordon Brown will say in his “speech” – not a real speech as he’ll be reading it - at the "New"** Labour party memorial service:

“Whenever and wherever there is anti-social behaviour we will be there to fight it.”

I assume "we" means you, Gordon, because it certainly doesn't mean me; I pay the highest taxes in Western Europe for, among other things, the police. Unfortunately, as the recent case of the poor lady who, despairing of getting help, killed herself and her daughter showed, the police say anti-social behaviour is nothing to do with them and fail to act accordingly.

Come to think of it, it's becoming less and less clear what is their business - another terrorised lady was told the police wouldn’t come because it would “escalate the problem.” For whom? But then again, there's only so much time you can spare from seeking out politically incorrect crimes and filling in forms.

So glad. then, that you're taking time off from saving the world, Gordon, to sort out this small problem. Should be a piece of piss for you.

Anyhow, now we’re in the legal front, a slice of life from my pal Malcolm Auld in Sydney.

A lawyer arrived home late, after a very tough day trying to get a stay of execution for a client facing the death sentence. His last minute plea for clemency had failed and he was feeling worn out and depressed.

As soon as he walked through the door his wife started on him, 'What time of night is this to be getting back? Where have you been? Dinner is cold and I'm not reheating it'. And on and on and on.

Too shattered to play his usual role in this familiar ritual, he poured himself a shot of whiskey and headed off for a long, hot soak in the bath, pursued by the usual sarcastic remarks as he dragged himself up the stairs.

While he was in the bath, the phone rang. The wife answered and was told that her husband's client, James Wright, had been granted a stay of execution after all. Wright would not be hanged tonight.

Finally realizing what a terrible day he must have had, she decided to go up stairs and give him the good news. As she opened the bathroom door, she was greeted by the sight of her husband, bent over naked, drying his legs and feet.

'They're not hanging Wright tonight,' she said.

He whirled around and screamed, 'For the love of God, woman, don't you ever stop?'

** "New" as in the "old" Labour Party but without principles.

Monday, 28 September 2009

"Madonna to wed Jesus". Er, isn't that incest?

70 years ago the sub-editors on The Times used to have a competition to see who could write the most boring headline.

The only one I can remember was "Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead."

At the other extreme, of course, are sensational headlines, like "Man bites lion." But "Madonna to wed Jesus" takes a bit of beating and I bet whoever wrote that felt it was their lucky day. How long, I wonder, shall we have to wait to read "Madonna divorces Jesus"?

Another line that amused me was "Darling: show some fire". I should tell overseas readers that this had nothing to do with Madonna and Jesus nor even sex. Sorry. It refers to Alastair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, telling his colleagues in the Labour Party to liven up a bit. Now, our Alastair is the political equivalent of Rigor Mortis. It was like being told to get a life - by a corpse.

But the thing that really made me chortle was reading yesterday in the Independent that a friend of Gordon Brown's for 50 years was going to reveal his shortcomings.

With friends like that ...

Friday, 25 September 2009

Fondly dedicated to every designer and copywriter around

Graphic designer versus clienthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfprIxNfCjk

That was sent to me by Ian Dewar who besides being a connoisseur of jokes also has a keen eye for the ludicrous. So he was kind enough to draw to my attention that the idiots in charge are going to pay a marketing agency to run a campaign telling us that VAT is going up to what it used to be.

This is the equivalent of standing up in a crowded room and reminding everyone you shat in your pants a week ago just when they've forgotten what a dreadful stink you made.

If you make a stupid decision like reducing VAT by a smidgeon, creating immense expense for merchants and no discernible benefit to the economy, you just hope to God nobody remembers what a bunch of witless twats you were.

You do NOT piss away more of our money (you can't keep printing it forever, you dunderheads) running a campaign to remind everyone.

Somebody should tell the cretins responsible that, as the Chartered Institute of Marketing has kindly pointed out, the aim of marketing is: "to establish and satisfy customer needs at a profit" not to spray cash around like a bunch of randy tomcats with not the slightest hope of satisfying anyone and a high probability of annoying the hell out of millions.

And if that's just a teeny weeny too hard for their tiny, little, vacant heads to take in, you'd think they'd realise the only thing it IS likely to do is lose votes.

I guess this cockeyed scheme comes out of the same loony bin that thinks really believe "paying tax needn't be taxing".

In the words of the Blessed David Ogilvy, "the consumer is not a moron; she is your wife."

The morons are all in government.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Meanwhile, back in the real world, O Mighty Toad

Fresh from his Bono-Hugs at the Let's Reward Failure Oscars SuperToad claims that "international action"- one of those specious, vague phrases he loves - has saved 7 million jobs world wide.

Even viewed through the distorted lens of official statistics this is the square root of fuck all. In tiny Britain alone 4 million people are out of work - without counting a great many more carefully hidden in Whitehall's rococo statistical mazes.

Two current pieces in The Spectator – by Fraser Nelson and Andrew Gilligan – give us a clearer idea of what is going on in the real world. They encapsulate the loony toons policies that are destroying millions of people's lives - and this country's ability to compete

  • If you’re a girl leaving school you have two options: employment or pregnancy. With one child and no job, £207 a week benefit income is more than the average wage for a hairdresser or teaching assistant.
  • With two children, it is £260 a week — more than a receptionist or library assistant earns. With three, it is £324 a week, more than a lab technician, typist or bookkeeper.
  • The Department of Work and Pensions has 14 manuals totalling 8,690 pages explaining its benefits – without including Gordon's almost completely incomprehensible tax credit system.

Nobody at the Department of Work and Pensions fully understands how all these various benefits and credits work. Many of those who receive them cannot read that well, but I bet they understand this powerful argument for vigorous and repeated copulation.
  • The London underground with its steps and escalators is almost impossible to use if you're in a wheelchair. So Transport for London plans to spend nearly £400 million to deliver what it calls ‘step-free access’ for the disabled to some of its Edwardian stations.
  • Boarding almost any train will still involve a step insurmountable to wheelchairs. So this expenditure is pretty pointless.

A powerful argument for a little common sense: but does Mayor Boris Johnson - once an editor of The Spectator - retain any? Or have power and access to other people's money deprived him of it?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Well, if Bono and Kissinger think he's good, that's alright, eh?

Ben Saffer sent me a message yesterday that read: "Have you f****ing seen this? WHAT?????

He referred me to Gordon Brown being named World Statesman of the Year by some mad selection committee in America for his "vision and dedication during the world financial crisis".

Back at home his vision and dedication have brought the pound to below par against the Euro, but there was a touching picture of him being hugged by another world statesman - Bono.

The man who gave the award was the repugnant Henry Kissinger - Nixon's partner in crime. His very special brand of vision and dedication helped to incinerate large numbers of women and children in Vietnam, Laos and other exotic spots in the '70's.

As we all know, one of the most striking benefits produced by the Visionary Toad is that from being one of the lowest taxed developed countries we are now one of the highest taxed. So one of Gordon's Merry Band of Morons, a man called Timms, has announced there will be a new tax - to "help fund broadband".

As with all such statements this is meaningless, but I have a better idea.

If people want broadband, let them pay for it in the normal commercial way. As sure as the post will be delayed tomorrow if the government gets involved billions will drain away in the trackless swamps of bureaucracy.

By the way, if you ever think your job is demanding, check this out:


Fondly dedicated to the relief of hairy marketers

We have a certain fondness for Ricky Gervais here, as his producer operates above us in darkest Newman Street, W. 1.

So have you noticed that ever since he made The Office wearing a ludicrous goatee lots of people, instead of drawing the sensible conclusion, have started sporting these silly examples of facial topiary?

For instance I just got yet another e-mail from some genius who promises to make me richer than Croesus practically overnight through the miracle of e-mail marketing - and, yes, he was wearing a goatee.

So Crispin, one of my colleagues, helpfully drew my attention to The Goatee Saver, illustrated above. Wonderful, isn't it?

Incidentally, if you suspect that goatees are suspect, and it may take a little longer to get rich here's an idea. Why not join me for a day or two at our Eadim event in a couple of weeks? We've reluctantly decided to offer it by the day, because most people can't afford the full week out of the office.
Go and have a look now and let me know what you think. You can see the EADIM site here, but details on each individual day are here.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Another total Ballsup from laughing Ed

I just whizzed off to Capri for the wedding of two Italian friends - about which more later on, as I'm a bit of an expert on the matrimonial front - then I looked at the news this morning and what did I see?...

Well, you couldn't make it up, could you?

Who was the the chief adviser to the Blustering Toad during his haphazard but nonetheless highly successful demolition of the British Economy? It was a smirking liar called Ed Balls.

And after the said Balls had made his massive contribution to our national debt, future taxes, etc., he was moved on - before he could do any more damage, one assumes - to take control of education.

Once again he quickly showed quite exceptional skill in what corporate and business school wankers would call his core competencies - misrepresentation and poor judgement. It took less than no time for him and his "team" to screw up all the exam results and deny either a) having anything to do with it or b) even knowing anything about it. What was really funny was that they were also paying someone who wasn't even living in the country shed-loads of cash to oversee things.

To be fair to our Ed, saying he didn't know what was happening was pretty convincing, since he yields to none in his combination of utter certainty and total ignorance. And he certainly cannot be faulted on the grounds of inconsistency, as his latest, astoundingly stupid wheeze is suggest that the best place to save public money right now is on education.

To say that British education is in a mess is an understatement of such majesty that I am almost but not quite lost for words. So degraded have standards become that the kind of questions I was expected to answer at the age of ten - like "who was Julius Caesar and when did he come to Britain" - are now deemed beyond the reach of university undergraduates.

So shamelessly have the figures been massaged that it is claimed things are getting better. But most of us know full well that education is one of the few areas where if anything more money is called for, not less. No wonder Ed's latest idea has all the teachers (many of them natural labour supporters, by the way) in a rage and, of course, the Conservatives in a state of orgasmic rapture.

Here's a way to save money, though. Every quango and consultant should be required within four weeks to prove in a document no more than ten pages long that what they do provides a direct economic benefit that exceeds their cost. And, in areas like education, defence, crime and health two ratios should be keenly scrutinised: the one between administrators and deliverers; and between time spent delivering and the time spent doing other things.

Oh, and Ed Balls should be made to get a proper job. That is to say, nothing to do with lobbying or PR or with any organisation that has had business from any of the departments he has helped to mismanage.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A confederacy of dunces ... at our expense

Yesterday some experts from a large publicly-owned organisation a few of whose workers spend a lot of time in the pub down the road, sometimes discussing their next withdrawal of labour, visited our basement to tell us how to improve our major client's direct mail.

They arrived late, with more people than they had advised us of and without the equipment we had told them they needed. However, they did have a PC with an Apple sticker on it which makes one wonder whether they ought to look into possible openings at The Comedy Store. This thought grew in prominence as the day wore on.

They helpfully pointed out the shortcomings of our direct mail - the copy is too long, the layout doesn't quite work and so on. To put their wisdom in context, our work has beaten all challengers (at least eight other agencies) twice a year for five years straight. It has been a chief reason why our client has enjoyed successive record years in an incredibly competitive market, whilst one of their two main competitors has gone broke and the other is having trouble meeting their financial obligations.

To be fair, our helpful visitors didn't know this as they only asked once about results. Nor, for that matter, when they showed a pleasing array of expensive creative material we might learn from did the words "response" or "results" cross their lips when we asked about such sordid details. There was much high-flown stuff about branding, with reference to Gordon's Gin - the perfect example when selling home improvements through a sales force who are gagging for leads every day.

One of my colleagues seemed to get rather excited at this point, perhaps caused by the sheer frustration of having to introduce the novel concept of return on investment to our visitors. As a matter of fact they seemed breezily unaware that this looms so very largely on the agendas of most normal businesses - especially those who, like our client, send out tens of millions of pieces each year.

One priceless gem during this epic encounter with witlessness came when one of my partners enquired about a particularly expensive direct mail piece: "Where did they get money from for that?" "Out of the TV budget". Uh?

Another came when one of our visitors who clearly suffered from creative pretensions said (I'm not kidding) "I'm seeing a green house with doors opening to show energy efficient products inside." My colleagues thought they'd strayed into a clip from a Ricky Gervais sketch - until the guy used that magic "I'm seeing" phrase again.

But the most hilarious moment came when the same visionary said (seriously) "Adwords don't work".

I cannot help but call one of Dr. Johnson's very best insults into service: "Such an excess of stupidity is not in nature."

And I cannot help but conclude that private ownership with a dash of selective unemployment might be quite good for any organisation that keeps such people off the crowded streets where their talents would so clearly flourish.

Q: Why is this poor chap going to jail? A: Because he's not a member of parliament

Some poor bloke who ripped off his employer for half a million quid to keep his wife happy has gone to jail for 4 years.

Why? He's paid the money back. Anyhow he worked for KPMG, the monster accountants. I thought it some kind of poetic justice.

The House of Commons is awash with people who've stolen money - and have absolutely no intention of paying it back. Actually most of them are unaware they've even done anything wrong.

P.S. A man called Nick Stoate whom I have never spoken to but has the right kind of name emails me to sell his email list, starting with "Further to our earlier conversation". Berk.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Unmistakable signs of a society going round in circles up its own arse

A wise man once said something to the effect that if you wish to judge a society, you should look at how it treats its old, poor and defenseless.

I think we could safely say that a good place not to fall into any of those categories is Haringey. This is the North London Borough where every few years babies get tortured to death under the unseeing eyes of those paid to make sure such things don't happen.

I do not blame those on the front line, so to speak. If they do a bad job it is because they are badly trained and managed. But I saw something so bizarre today that convinces me that it starts even before that - with how the council recruits people.

Here are selected extracts from a job ad which make me think everyone running things in Haringey is living in some insane parallel universe; life as imagined by Dali or perhaps Hieronymus Bosch.


Car Park and Street Compliance Manager


"The Parking Service is looking for a Street Compliance Manager who will be able to manage the maintenance of signs, lines and street furniture relating to parking restrictions."

Street furniture????

Here's a bit more.

"You will be actively working as part of the Parking Operations Division promoting teamwork and encouraging a joined-up approach to responding to street compliance issues."

Now seriously, folks, did a sane person write that utter shit? Could it even be conceivable?

It goes on like that for a bit, with some more drivel about teams with a hilarious bit about "working in a pressurised office environment" which I assume means with a bunch of similarly demented form-fillers, then at the end it says "Haringey Council wants its workforce to reflect the diverse community it serves."

Er, we all know what that means.

How the hell can you hope to get people doing a proper job if everyone talks this incomprehensible moonshine? Madness.

Instead of looking after people the poor sods who apply for these jobs have to learn to talk this gobbledygook and pretend to believe in it, too, before they can hope to climb up the corkscrew ladder of opportunity at Haringey.

And we're paying for all this.

Words fail me.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A pleasant change from the threat of riots from our far-sighted workers' champions ...

I woke this morning to be greeted by the news that the charmless thugs who run the public servants' unions are threatening riots if some of their people look like losing jobs - a prospect the rest of us, who pay them, face every day.

So here's a pleasant contrast. It's Tamsin Taylor's design for a plaque commemorating her school's 50th anniversary being unveiled by two mayors.

Tamsin is my colleague Richard's daughter. She visits our basement offices sometimes and claims to enjoy it but I suspect her English teacher has given her a bad language project, for which I am a perfect exemplar.

For overseas readers, the man with the blond hair is Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. The one dressed as a head waiter with the horse-brasses round his neck is the Mayor of Westminster (which is part of London). Boris explained the reason for two mayors is that the other chap is the Day Mayor leaving the audience to guess what he is. He also said he did so badly at prep school that he has spent his life ever since making up for it with an obscene lust for power.

Boric seems the only politician with a genuine sense of humour, as opposed to the usual dross who have their jokes written for them. He is also one of the few who is well-read, with a real knowledge of history. I hope he doesn't get carried away with it all. My beloved partner, whose sense of priorities is quite different, hopes he finds a decent tailor

Friday, 11 September 2009

Watch out: crackpots about

The lovely Kate, our new amanuensis, just sent me a message headed: You think maybe these people have too much time on their hands?

A research company has been paid to find out which biscuit is most likely to cause an injury during a tea or coffee break.

The answer was the custard cream, which besides tasting disgusting can now rather aggressively claim to be the UK's most dangerous snack based on something called the Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation.

The research was carried out by Mindlab International for a chocolate biscuit bar maker whose Marketing Director rightly calculated that something so utterly stupid couldn't fail to make news.

It seems an amazing number of "biscuit-related injuries" are treated by doctors each year.

The catalogue of disasters brings tears to the eye - which is where some people like to poke themselves with their chosen biscuit.

Others fall off chairs while reaching for the tin, get burnt after dunking biscuits in scalding tea, and even get hit by flying fragments.

Still yet others choke on crumbs or damage a tooth or filling on a hard biscuit. One poor soul got stuck in wet concrete after wading in to pick up a stray biscuit.

Legendary research "icon" Dr. Theophilus Q. Groat explained how the project came about.

"We're all off our bleeding heads on drugs here. Would any sane person do this for a living? But I was over-qualified for my last job of cleaning Glasgow lavatory seats with my tongue, and this seemed more of challenge."

Our Man Inside Downing Street says that Dr. Groat is about to be "tasked" with the role of Snack Czar by the Mighty Toad. He will be working in harness with a steering committee at OfTwat composed of union leaders who think strikes will help the economy.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Latest poll results

Switzerland has the world’s most competitive economy, according to an annual index from the World Economic Forum.

America came in second place for the first time since 2004, when the WEF began compiling the data in their current form.

In its ranking of the soundness of banks, America fell to 108th position, behind Tanzania. Britain was 126th, one notch below Burundi.

In the highly competitive European Barefaced Lying Stakes, the great Haggis came in second place just three whoppers, and a fib behind uberwanker Silvio "I never paid for it in my life" Berlusconi.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

More from the land of Oz

I sent out an email last week to about 9,000 people to find out whether they had any interest at all in my ramblings or just signed up in a drunken moment.

The message was not my best, and I am pleased to say that (for once) this wasn't my fault. It was my partner Al's, but since he's younger, bigger and stronger than me I can't beat him up.

Anyhow ... I got lots of nice and quite a few funny messages, including one from Harry Brelsford in Queensland, who started with a comment only meaningful to those who follow a certain sport which very occasionally we beat them at.

"From over here in Australia it looks like we may need some guidance on how to play the game of Cricket."

Harry is a printer - a hell of a tricky business - and he made me smile several times:

"I have not read all of your ideas but have them in chronological order and will print and bind them when finished. I run a small printing business on the Gold Coast and still like to read from paper.

I hoped this whole Internet thing would go away and still start ranting when I see an email signature that suggests we should consider the environment before printing that miserable little email. The same person probably bins a whole newspaper every day.

We have persevered and our little business (run by my daughter and her not always too bright dad) is holding its own. The one thing we do is send a direct mail letter to our customers every month. This is a single page A4 on our letterhead. We also distribute postcards every month to our catchment area telling prospects we do good stuff that can help them.

We also push that we can help them get a better return on their marketing material because we have been doing our own marketing in the local area for many years. We claim their printing costs the same whether it has an effective or ineffective message.

Our own measure is if we distribute our postcards every month sales go up, stop the campaign and sales go down. Scientific enough for me to keep doing it."

That made me laugh. God knows how many allegedly smart people still don't even measure what happens as a result of their marketing. You'd think a recession might teach them, but no; not a chance.

Harry made me laugh again when he said he likes my helpful ideas and "I no doubt use some of the inspiration down the track and by then probably think the idea is my own."

Hey, Harry, they certainly aren't original, believe me.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Why didn't you get rich quick - or even slow? Uncle Dray's Agony column

Over the weekend Daniel Eigenmann of Perth, Western Australia sent me a couple of questions - and some of you might be interested in my answers.

He asked my views on websites designed like long sales letters (without any navigation options). They seem to be adopting all the characteristics (and proven principles) of traditional (read snail-mail) direct (response) marketing.

Does the traditional sales letter format translate to the Internet and what do you make of these sales letters promising ‘untold riches overnight without doing anything’?

I have never forgotten that McGraw-Hill research years ago found that in business magazines ads over 1,000 words long had an average of 25% higher readership; and Gallup found that the most successful ads repeat the proposition three times.

I replied to Dan as follows - and the first point is by far the most important:

1. The principles of persuasion do not change with the media.

2. As a rule good long copy will always beat good short copy – because it:

a. Gives more reasons to act

b. Overcomes more objections

c. Repeats the proposition

The only case where this principle does not apply is when you are trying a different proposition, format or incentive.

I suspect the reference to long websites without navigation options is actually referring to landing pages.

The school of opinion on this seems to be, don’t send people off that page – you will lose them.

I talked to two of my partners about this. They disagreed with each other. So I arrived as usual at the golden rule: test and see.

I would test opportunities to navigate, but only to pages that asked for the order.

When it comes to those countless people who promise get rich quick in 20 minutes – it’s easier than falling off a log… if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

On the other hand:

1. The techniques these people use are well worth learning from.

2. If you do everything they say, you will undoubtedly do better.

3. But they over-promise – because it works.

Why is this? Because human beings believe what they want to believe.

Why do most people not succeed in getting rich that easily?

Chiefly because the over-promises make them think it’s easier than it is, so they don’t put in the effort.

Over the years, being as lazy as the next man, I have tried every conceivable way of making money without working. Never succeeded.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Vulgar commerce - or, oh, what a deal!

You will have noticed - because like all my readers you are exceptionally observant - that greed for gold rarely, if ever, soils these pages.

On the other hand, you may be disturbed by my lack of business sense. Am I totally out of touch? Marooned in the 20th century?

"Where's your social network marketing?" I sense you asking - appalled at my poor commercial intelligence. "You're losing the plot, you fool. Are you a secret acolyte of El Gordo Ludicroso?"

Oh, alright then. I give in.

Here is a commercial break. I have something really worthwhile for you, so please pay attention.

But I must warn you. You should only read on if you or someone you know would:

a) Like to pick up pretty much everything you really need to know about direct/online marketing in just one week.

b) Straight from the horses' mouths - from some of world’s leading practitioners. Not theorists: people who have done it - I’m one, chosen chiefly for my mistakes.

c) Do so at an absurdly low cost. As low as half price. Half price? Yes. I'll explain in a moment.

You can see what it’s all about at www.eadim.com.

It’s a fairly intimate affair – if you’ll excuse the expression: not a vast hall - a relatively small number of people.

And there's a very simple reason why you can take me to the cleaners in this obscene fashion.

Two organisations who promised to send a torrent of people between them have in the end come up with none.

Not their fault, really, but there it is.

So I have room for a few more people who could come for as little as half price.

Apart from the benefits you see at www.eadim.com this event last year got more testimonials than delegates.

So if you're interested or know anyone who might be, point them in my direction.

Last year one delegate (former marketing director of a national telecoms firm) said it was the most useful week since he learned to read and count. Several people started businesses or transformed their careers as a result.

The speakers are of a unique calibre.

And so are my jokes. But you knew that already.

Let me know if you're interested at drayton@draytonbird.com - and I'll tell you the deal.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Bad language

The picture is of my father, George, one of his sisters and a niece.

Handsome, isn't he?

He was also a man of the most sublime eccentricity, and I suspect I am getting more and more like him.

He was a publican and, as my mother informed me, a sinner when he got too close to one or two of the barmaids. As she put it, "George loved the ladies, and the ladies loved him." In fact I've long suspected that he and my younger brother - also called George - were both very friendly with the lovely Gertrude. And she was lovely, too.

Anyhow, being a bit of a booze-hound, the old man tended to be in a filthy mood in the mornings, which he dealt with very logically by making sure he had something to moan about. If he couldn't find anything obviously amiss in the kitchen or the bar, he would solve the problem by turning on the wireless (this was before the days when they called it the radio).

He knew he would always find some music he loathed on what was then called the Light Programme (there were only three BBC programmes in those days and this was the most frivolous).

As soon as he heard a singer he disliked (usually a woman) he would snap, "Yowling bitch!" and turn the machine off, satisfied that all was ill in the world and standards were on a gratifying decline.

In a similar way I delight in prowling through the reviews - paying especial attention to the ludicrous prices - of top restaurants, usually pausing to wonder why the former are so often illiterate and the latter so absurdly high, and occasionally muttering things like "pshaw" and "grasping bastards".

Nobody qualifies on both counts more than Gordon Ramsay, a man whose deployment of an extraordinarily limited number of words never fails to enthrall. Anyhow, I just read that one of his restaurants serves "traditional English Fayre".

Fayre? Fayre. Fuck me, Gordon, I'd find out who wrote that and give them a right kicking. Outside of third-rate cafes in resorts like Weston-super-Mare where do they use expressions like that?

This could kill your positioning. How can you possibly charge your sort of prices for "fayre". You'll have to bring them right down if you get too much of that sort of language used.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Jumpin' up ... with the police

Well, yesterday my beloved and I went for a wander round the Carnival, which Metro told her is the largest street festival in Europe.

It certainly seems to create the largest collection of empty bottles and assorted rubbish in this country outside the Houses of Parliament.

The first carnival I attended was in Trinidad in 1970. From what I can recall the floats were as good and the bands better than the one I saw yesterday.

But I never enjoyed it as much as I should have done. Overcome by a painful attack of English shyness I never joined in as much as I should have. I think I spoilt it for the girl I was with, the lovely Janina, toast of Gdynia.

I often wince to think what a sad, gauche, yet at the same time arrogant twit I was when younger. Come to think of it, I wince a fair bit nowadays, too.

Besides chicken with noodles and Thai chilli sauce for £2.50 (typically Caribbean) the most interesting thing to me yesterday was the police. It is damned hard to manage half a million people, many under the influence of one thing or another and maybe both in such a relatively small area over so many hours.

On the other hand, the only time I really saw them "in action" was quite frightening. Not because of what they did, but because of how they did it.

What they did was necessary. They were trying to sort out two streams of "traffic" which with the incredible crush was a good idea. But they did it in a very menacing way. It felt just like the "kettling" tactics they've been criticised for.

Suddenly this double row of police blocked off our progress. There was no reason given. Just a row of hard faces just an arm's length ahead. All they had to say was, "Sorry folks. Wait here for a couple of minutes." But not a word. Just those bad-tempered faces.

This was just lousy communication. Just a couple of words here and there missing. How hard would it be to tell them to say them? And easy for them to say, too.

The more I think, the more I believe that a couple of words here and there often makes all the difference. I would, wouldn't I? Scribbler's arrogance.