Saturday 23 July 2011

Views from a Grumpy Old Man

A couple of weeks back, I made a rare and intrepid visit to a supermarket to buy a few groceries. Before leaving, I asked the wallet drainers in my house if they required anything – “a packet of cornflakes please!” came the response. Well at least I got a ‘please.’ Easy I thought. Hmmm…

So upon arriving, I made for the cereal aisle, conveniently placed at the very back of the store next to the bread and some sort of alien food which I deduced brought forth a boiling hot jam substitute, between two layers of cardboard after five minutes in a toaster. Surely there are better things to eat before you succumb to this?

Anyway, I looked for cornflakes and that was not difficult at all. There was virtually a whole shelving unit dedicated to them. The problem came when trying to choose the right ones. With time on my hands, I set about my task. Firstly I counted the number of different options: there were 43. Since when did anyone need to choose from 43 ‘different’ types of cornflake?

There were the obvious known brand ones - the supermarket’s own offering, various ‘organic’ offerings, economy cornflakes, some where the factory had added sugar for you (how kind – is anyone really that busy?). One of the brands had added dried fruit for you (claiming to give you the powers of Batman); another brand had some stuff removed… (it’s a cornflake, if you take something away surely you are left with dust?)

One brand claimed to make you thin – although none claimed to make you fat, which would be hilarious. Another offered you a luxurious trip down the cornflake taste pageant; (you know, the supermarket’s offerings that claim to taste better, simply the greatest, and more). Some claimed to have added nutrients derived from a fish liver (really?). There were others but I had lost the will to live at this point.

Being tighter than a rat’s ear, I thought I would go for the economy brand. This came in a bag not a box and was in pence not pounds – a bargain! The labelling screamed ‘tightwad’ and declared that they were like normal cornflakes ‘only smaller.’ Presumably these are the ones that have slipped off the conveyor belt onto the floor before making a new life for themselves in any of the aforementioned offerings, then scooped up by an out of work jockey using a kid’s shovel and thrown into the bag.

Ah, I thought, I’m missing a trick here. They could have trebled the price and stuck them in a box and delivered us the ‘Tasmanian Miniature Cornflake’ or similar, declaring that the constant sun, spring water irrigated channels and caring nature of the farmer (imagine a picture of farmer type; old hat, smiling, just a hint of cheekiness from the sly wink he is giving) giving us a breakfast taste sensation bettered only by Eggs Benedict at the Savoy on Royal Wedding Day.

But then I thought – what will fellow customers and staff think of me at the checkout? I am tight? I am skint? Or I am sensible? I don’t need a blinking identity crisis when buying cornflakes. So ironically - after about 43 minutes - I shuffled back to the cereal aisle and picked up a box of supermarket cornflakes. On the way back to the checkout, I passed through the pet aisle and noticed ‘Simply the Greatest’ Cat Litter!!!

You have got be kidding me... I can just imagine the conversation in households who have bought into this: “You can leave that litter in the tray for a few more weeks, Shirley. It says on the packet that it’s better than the others” – urrrgh!


Thursday 14 July 2011

Fashion by Shona Harding from Pearls & Scarlett

Hello Everybody.

I thought of a slightly different approach to my article this issue. Normally I talk about influences on the high street from the fashion world and catwalk shows, but what we wear is also influenced by media and famous personalities.

Magazines are flooded with shots of TV, film and showbiz stars; all with their own take on style and how to achieve it and wear it. This is not a new trend: in the 1980’s shows like Dallas and Dynasty spawned a generation of heavy make-up and power dressing. Princess Diana sparked new trends with many of her different looks, including copy cats of her wedding dress and the millions who tried to work the ‘Sloane ranger’ look to full effect. Who can forget the 1990’s when we had ‘heroin chic’ and grunge? Indie bands Oasis and Blur bought us Fred Perry and mod fashion as well as making the Union Jack a “cool Britannia” again. Media stars and film stars can impact the fashion world as strongly as designers in Vogue and all the leading glossy magazines.

For example recent film releases such as Black Swan which is set in the world of ballet dancing soon filled the pages of magazines. Short cardigan wraps, ballet slippers and tutu-inspired clothing became the feature of the week, followed by the hair styles and make up. Pale skin and rosy cheeks are ‘in’; hair is loose, or in tight buns on the top of the head. Looks are always watered down for the everyday shopper but this pattern of gaining ideas from the media has become very big business.

We now have websites dedicated to copying the stars’ looks. (As Seen on Scene) replicates red carpet fashion immediately after the events. Celebrities seen in everyday life are picked apart and every piece of clothing or jewellery is scrutinised and copied. Variations on whole outfits are offered side by side to the picture of the celebrities at a fraction of the cost. TV even understands the public obsession with star style. Gok Wan puts together high street outfits for women of every size and shape, giving them a glamorous look on a high street budget.

It is also big business for handbag makers. Once Victoria Beckham was seen sporting a Birkin by Hermes. She was sent one in every colour whilst the rest of the population has to go on a two-year waiting list. Companies understand the power she wields over women aspiring to her lifestyle and wardrobe; every time she is seen with a new colour bag the waiting list gets bigger.

So it is wise to be aware of the influences all around you.

Have fun with fashion and see you in the next edition.