LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
2 January 2016
Keep Calm and Carry on for 2:57 Minutes

A new three-minute advert provides a guide to ‘the unique, eclectic culture of
modern Britain’. Welcome to Heathrow. Welcome to the UK. Welcome to
Stephen Fry.

Smashed suitcases, lost luggage, endless queuing, microwaved food beyond
recognition to a grey lump, seated in the middle row of how many across?
Blimey. Well, all that travel nightmare aside, Stephen Fry wants to welcome you
to the UK. So be joyful. OK?

Here’s how. “A staggering 91 per cent of all verbal exchanges in the United
Kingdom concern the weather. Bare in mind the agreement rule.” He mentions
the ‘glassware drop’ - “if a plate or glass smashes, it is customary to let burst a
‘wahey!’”, the ‘after you loop’, no after you. “You should be fine if you recall the
one golden rule. Make yourself at home.” Not according to PM CallMeDave; all
asylum seekers stay out.

No mention of milk first, jam first. It’s milk last, jam first. Oh no. Now a Cornish
debate will begin and never end. But it is really milk last…after removing the tea
bag. Tea bag served in a cup/mug…argh! Never. SF did mention all those
manners to be considered. So no eating with your mouth open, ever. No matter
how every actor on EastEnders does. Yuck!

It could be the joylessness of January, but while every writer found it hilarious,
witty, and definitely ROFL. I watched it several times and nothing. Not so funny.
Curiously we love Stephen Fry. We love collaborator Graham Linehan. So what
happened exactly? We know Graham won scriptwriting Baftas for
The IT Crowd
and
Father Ted and let’s not forget Black Books! Superbly amusing. You can
smile, feel warm feelings toward Stephen, think about being British, but laugh
uproariously? Clearly I missed something.

If nothing else, at least the concept of queuing has been introduced. And I might
add: on escalators, it’s stand on the right!


Shop Around

Oh dear me. M&S losses for the last five years. Certainly not in food – always
offering new (rather than new & improved). It’s the clothing, stupid. Well, yes it
is. The ads are brilliant, really brilliant so hire the agency to design the clothing.
Just joking, but maybe not.

M&S windows reflected their adverts, the stores have been ‘modernised’, so
what’s the problem? Lack of stock on anything worth buying and catering to the
suburban middle-class, middle-aged? Women-who-love-florals and purple (yuck)
can go to John Lewis where any innovation in any area has been replaced with
borrrrrrring. All a bit too Midsomer Murders….

After six years, Marc Bolland is to be replaced by Steve Rowe, the head of
M&S's non-food general merchandise division and 25-year company veteran.
Hmmm. Doesn’t illicit much hope does it? A quarter of a century? Hmmm. Well,
Rowe began his 25 year career as a 15-year-old Saturday boy in the men’s
knitwear department of M&S in Croydon. He took a four year break to work at
Topshop. However, Rowe has been in charge of clothing since last summer.
Hmmm. Wait. A moment of optimism. Under Rowe’s tenure the food division
increased 3.4 per cent to £5.2bn. Hmmm.

Bolland leaves MS with the "strongest food proposition on the high street, a
decent online shopping platform" and having delivered total shareholder returns
during his tenure of around 50 per cent. But investors weren’t happy with his
"one glaring failure". Indeed.

We did have That Suede Skirt, That Pink Coat, Twiggy. M&S does make fab
jeans/leggings, but no other items immediately come to mind that are as well
designed. Time to realise 50 is the new 30. Catch up before it’s too late. Hint:
fashion-
forward. And please; no more lavender/purple/teal – separately and
definitely not together. Hint: ‘mumsy’ not a good look. Last hint: COS.

When you think, ‘oh I’ll just pop into Zara instead’, remember Zara charges us
2/3rds more for the very same items sold in Spain. Not nice. Zara’s owner is one
of the richest men on the planet. Nice.


There’s No Place Like Home

Shed a tear for poor PM CallMeDave. Dave’s been having sleepless nights
walking the floors in his Number 10 residence, his terraced house in North
Kensington (worth upwards of £3.5m), and his large constituency house in
Oxfordshire (worth more than £1million). Poor Dave.

Dave’s fear is that his children, Nancy eleven, Elwen nine, and Florence five
could struggle to afford property in future. Cue: hand-wringing here…a few
tears…your choice. Dave worries his children will struggle to afford their future
homes. No. Really. That with his £30m in the bank.

Dave he told LBC radio: “I absolutely worry about it. This is why this is the first
announcement I have made in 2016 of a series of steps to build more homes.”
Oh right Dave. So few it won’t make a difference compared to how many are a
necessity to prevent families living in tents in Hyde Park. Dave’s plan is to
demolish council estates and replace them with ‘affordable’ housing. Ha, ha, ha.
Affordable for whom exactly? Oh of course. Those first time London buyers with
an extra £450,000 in one of their bank accounts. Tents? Possibly sleeping bags.

The government’s new bill called the Housing and Planning Bill it is planning to
get through by stealth (as usual) “is a raft of dangerous measures that will
increase inequality and solely benefit the private sector”, according to
The
Guardian
. “This bill represents a wholesale power grab, transferring both
housing assets and planning powers from public to private hands in a drunken
festival of deregulation.”

“All of us who own our own homes, you can remember the magic of that first
moment, the first set of keys.” I’m feeling queasy here. Dave bought his first
home in 1992, aged 25; one-bedroom flat in Notting Hill for £130,000. Rather
pricey then, Dave?

“I want this to be a country where if you work hard, you’re putting the hours in,
you should be able to own a flat or a house of your own.” Who doesn’t love
when Dave does that ‘work hard/put in the hours rhetoric? Just like Dave did.

If you are a home owner, consider yourself very lucky, even privileged like his
kids


Hands Up

Is that an onion in your pocket or are you unhappy to see me?   It seemed that
every front page of the UK papers showed a full page of Obama’s response to
the shooting of 20 children in Chicago 2012. “Every time I think about those
kids, it gets me mad,” he said, with tears streamed down his cheeks. It made
him so mad, he made his case for tougher restrictions on the sale of firearms
over the internet and at gun shows.

Well, we did see that obligatory ‘tear-wipe’ usually used by men who feel the
need to appear human when they are in front of a camera. OK. OK. That does
sound harsh, but I’m not the only one to question the ‘I’m the coolest dude on
the planet’ image converted into ‘and I’m so sensitive’. Admittedly it was the
always questionable and usually objectionable Fox News whose presenters had
their doubts. As they would.

Evidently presenter Andrea Tantaros suggested Obama had used a “raw onion”
to produce fake tears for shooting victims during his press conference on gun
violence. She said that she wasn’t convinced of the emotional demonstration
because “he would have spoken out a long time ago.”

Perhaps the greatest orator of mono-syllabic, each-word-emphasised, long-
pauses-for-drama-affect simply practiced in front of a mirror. “Got kiss myself
I'm so pretty.” Oh sorry. That’s Bruno Mars isn’t it?

Evidently another presenter, Melissa Francis wasn’t convinced either. “What
was really upsetting was the tears that he wiped away again and again.”

Facts please? Gun toting was meant to be limited to militias. Yes. Militias; a
group of men armed against invaders (ie; the British) – not militia meaning every
person is free to create a personal stash of major modern weaponry. Every time
the issue is raised, there is a massive spike in gun purchases. Even shares in
Smith & Wesson jumped 12 percent.

How much of an arsenal do you need to protect your little suburban two bed
house? The country has more guns than people — maybe 100 million more and
clearly counting. Now that could make you sad and mad.
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