Thursday, November 13, 2008

Suburban Absurdia

When I was asked to consider writing these blogs (I know it's improbable that someone wanted me to do this, but bear with me) I thought it would be appropriate to give them a theme.

All the popular blogs seem to have some kind of theme, whether it's a home-worker railing against their multiple employers and cold-calling salesmen or something like a 'diary of a call girl'
Obviously these things can often be fiction, not actually written by either prostitutes or, even, girls - rather by unpublished authors looking for the newest marketing gimmick.

Whilst brainstorming (in my own brain, by myself) an intended 'theme' I thought I should also have a title, which I'd imagined might be 'Suburban Tales'.

This title also had an explanatory subtitle, 'locating the absurd in the apparently everyday'.

Before you see fit to comment, I already know that I clearly need to get out more, or think a lot less. In any case I abandoned the title idea, partly because I thought it might be too limiting - I might not see something absurd every week - and also that the length of the subtitle might actually exceed the content of the piece.

Having said all of this, and possibly already tested your patience, I am able to give you an idea of the kind of content I'd originally considered appropriately absurd.

I have cause to travel to London on a regular basis. This cause is 'work' or to give it a more vulgar but accurate form, 'money'.

As you might have heard, the new Mayor of London made a snap decision to ban the consumption of alcohol on the tube-lines which make travel in the capital such a joy.
Maybe it's the alcohol that made them a joy; this has yet to be determined. This ban came into effect on June 1st and Londoners obviously marked its imminent arrival with a night of partying on the underground.

As with many unofficial parties, the 'last night of drinking on the tube' descended into chaos and saw some stations closed by the police.

Nothing surprising there you might think, and indeed you'd be right until you fast-forward to the Monday after the event and my arrival at one of the tube stations that was closed.

My descent into Euston Station was rather more colourful than usual, because the entire arrivals concourse has been re-branded by an advertiser.

You currently find yourself surrounded by beautiful scenery across all the walls. These rolling hills and mountains can only advertise one thing - vodka.

So, on the day after the ban which was appropriately the morning after the 'morning after' the party, the entirety of a station which was closed by 'yobbish drunks' (© the tabloids) is now dedicated to advertising alcohol - a substance you're forbidden from using in the vicinity of the ad.

It is possible that the people responsible for the ad are revelling in the irony of the situation, and celebrating their cleverness in taking advantage of the resulting profile. I suspect not though, I imagine (knowing how long such campaigns take to plan) that it was a huge accident. A mistake.

The images are very pleasant, though. They are meant to conjure up the purity of the spirit they're advertising; huge pastoral scenes - the biggest of which is a picture of a giant Finnish lake.

Lovely, except that in the very centre of the lake, affixed by blu-tack, is a white A4 photocopied bulletin from the metropolitan police. The poster is seeking witnesses to a sexual assault that took place at the station. It sort of ruins the effect. *

In conclusion you may like to savour the slogan that accompanies the ads: 'vodka from a purer place'. Really, you couldn't make it up.

It may not be suburban, but it is certainly absurd and possibly inappropriate. These are characteristics I frequently embody, as you'll discover if you stick with me for a few weeks.

*It may seem even harder to believe but the agency responsible for the ad has a picture of the wrap on their website. The image they use is exactly the one I'm referring to The police notice is to the right of the red sign.

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