Category Archives: advertising.

Five hundred years …

… and it comes down to this:


and this:


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Filed under advertising., leisure travel, Literature

Friday, 15th September, 2017

And so to the processes of catching up ….

Business of the day:

From edgy Crouch End to Euston, via the Victoria Line out of Finsbury Park.

Locate a ticket machine, and cough for two fares to infamous Luton Airport, via East Midland trains. Note that the expression “Luton Airport” is as abusive as it gets (compare “Belgium” in H2G2), and must be uttered in the diction of Lorraine Chase:

Arrive with about half-an-hour in hand at the airport. Miraculously, a fast check-in through Security. Then easyJet, barely late by their usual standards, to Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport (which must qualify as the most wordy title going).

By all appearances, the bloke in the row before us has bought all three seats. And needs them. Kids kicking back of my seat all the way from Spain last trip, and now this?

At destination (why are continentals generally so much much efficient at passport-control than the Brits? — no, don’t answer that!), a rapid departure by the proper Swiss exit to the #50 bus, having conquered the multi-language ticket machine for two-zone pre-paid tickets.

That strange road, the Route Douanière, which is “Swiss”, going though France, until it arrives at an anonymous mini-roundabout, morphs itself into Flughafenstrasse, to percolate through the northern suburbs to Basel SBB, the French-Swiss railway terminal (of which more in later posts, perchance).

A #11 tram (and I adore trams) in tasteful mustard to Johanniterbrücke. This would not be any great distance, were it not for a major re-routing to relay tracks. Hence an exploration of the other side of the Rhine and crossing two bridges.

And so we are arrived.

Dining experience of the day

All that meant we had gone from sparrow’s morning fart to late afternoon without eating, sustained only by the last Guardian for some days.

Those same tram tickets allowed us to retreat to the centre of an unknown town. At this stage we had hardly come to terms with Swiss francs (though all the credit-card transactions came in around “Swissie” — note how I adapted to ex-pat usages —  1:30 to the £, which was better than expected).

So to Bierstube zum Stadtkeller on Marktgasse, for a decent snaffle and (frighteningly-costly) bottle of something red.

And so to bed

In a bedroom overlooking the Rhine, with four grandchildren and two hairy dogs ruffling around the joint, and with the river cruisers moored just downstream.

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Filed under advertising., Guardian, leisure travel, London

“More honey for the same expenditure of material”

That’s Pappus of Alexandria, one of the last Greek mathematicians, commenting on why the hexagons of the honey-comb are so efficient. Just one of the infinite interpretations of bees in our language, literature and general culture.

There’s a lot of bees around at the moment, and I’ve just had to respond to a question about why they are so prevalent in the context of Manchester. And Manchester is currently on all our minds, and tongues.

I first saw Manchester — oh! — over sixty years ago. I was not impressed. I instantly made the mental association with Dickens’s Coketown:

It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage.  It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled.  It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness.  It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.

In retrospect, I’d qualify that: Manchester might once have been Coketown; but its great days were already passing. To be absolutely correct (and here comes the teacher of Eng. Lit.), Dickens probably had Preston in mind, where he had visited to give a reading in early 1854 (serialisation of Hard Times began in April), just after a cotton workers’ strike.

Today, Manchester still wears the masonry of the industrial centre it had been. Now it is buffing up, the air is breathable, new buildings are in-filling and are as uniformly and crassly modern as anywhere else. It does have, to its credit, a developing and efficient mass-transport system.

One enters Alfred Waterhouse‘s vast Town Hall, and walks on bees:

That same bee turns up world-wide in the punning trade-mark for Boddington‘s beer: now a gruesome fizzy, frothy concoction brewed way-out-of-town, but once a staple for the cotton workers. Both brewery and employment long gone.

Dickens’s “black canal” has been bourgeoisified: it is now couth and well-scrubbed-up. When I’m through Manchester (and its our closest international airport of substance), I would head for The Wharf. The full address is Slate Wharf, Castefield, thus linking the industrial pedigree to a somewhat-imaginative Roman castra. The Wharf will offer as many as a dozen decent brews, not fizzy, but real ale, and several of them local. There’ll be no cotton-workers in sight: today this milieu is all professional and media types. Manchester may not make as much in the way of physical goods, but it sure knows how to make money.

So the bees buzz everywhere.

They are on the coat-of-arms of Manchester University (as right). They are featured on the crest (as left) of  HMS Manchester. The first (well, actually the second, if we include the down-market supply ship of the Napoleonic wars) of that name had a short, but spectacular — even controversial — life in the Second World War. The name was sufficiently re-habilitated to be applied to a Type-42 destroyer which did its bit in the Falklands and the Gulf.

There is another connection.

The co-operative movement started in Rochdale, just down the road from central Manchester, in 1844. The symbolism of “co-operation” meant that bees were carved on the buildings of the Co-ops. And remain a symbol to this day.

I’d reckon Pappus would approve.

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Filed under advertising., Beer, Britain, travel

“A delightful spirit” Bushmills tinplate advert

spiritThese are everywhere.

No pub, built in the 1960s, and up-dated to the 1880s, is complete without them.

The young lady playing footsie simultaneously with the old rake and the young fella is one of the finest of the type.

I’m wondering just how far a modern version would go without the feminists complaining.

I’m told this is available as a poster. And all the better for that.

Because the version I saw came with a sticker telling me it was “Made in Germany”.


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Filed under advertising., Northern Ireland

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

Once-upon-a-time, back in the days when Ted Heath ruled the land, British Rail submitted (and was granted) a patent for a flying saucer:


Now the job of being Tottenham Court Road jester falls to Transport for London.

We should count TfL’s greatest hits, especially those under the present part-time Mayor of London:

  • 808 Boris Boggler buses, which parboil the occupants, are unreliable and — arguably — unsafe, don’t quite work on hybrid power train, and — but naturally — are “iconic”. Lest we forget, the cost was originally budgeted at a quarter of a million per bus, but has ballooned to over £350,000. As for the assured export and sell-on deals, say no more …
  • the Danglewire across the Thames, which goes from nowhere to nowhere, but has a scenic view of the scrapyards below: this is billed (with everything BoJo there has to be a bill) as an “airline”;
  • the Boris bike scheme, which costs Londoners a small fortune, and provides late-night thrills-and-spills for drunken stock-jobbers — this was going to be a “no-cost” operation, which now costs £1,400 per year, per bike;
  • the pretentious and pointless, but projected Garden Bridge;
  • Borisport-on-mudflat, the Grand Project for a mega-airport in the Thames, which cost £200 million;
  • a rack-rented fares policy;
  • the worst labour disputes on record (14 million Google “hits”), largely because the Mayor can’t be arsed to talk to his employees;
  • a shut-down of ticket booths, at a moment when buses went cash-free …

What’s to be done?

Nothing else for it! Send for the PR-team! And, lo!

We are searching for London’s most iconic transport designs and designers, and will be asking you to vote for your favourite from 3 August. 

These images are submissions from TfL staff, but if you think we have missed anything, please let us know your Design Icon by emailing

For more information on Transported by Design visit

Use the hashtags #DesignIcons and #TransportedbyDesign to participate on Facebook and Twitter.

With the history, pre-Boris, of London Transport there has to be a wealth of good stuff in such a list. It doesn’t take much presience to expect the “winner” would be one of:

  • Harry Beck’s map (which has gone round the world);

Harry Beck's

  • the Johnson type-face;



  • (just to annoy Boris) the original Routemaster.


Towards the end of that “suggested” list of LT “icons”, we find Wilfred the Bunny:

Wilfred the Bunny

Wilfred was, it seems, intended — or, at least, suggested for the bonnets of LT’s “Green Line” country buses. ‘Elf’n’Safety would today ban  such an ornament, but we speak of an age when form followed function, but also could be fun. Consider, in the same vein, the coins of the Irish Free State:


To think, Ireland gave up such elegant simplicity for the €.

I’m assuming that the bunny had to be “Wilfred” from  the Daily Mirror comic strip, of Pip (the dog and father figure), Squeak (a penguin and mother) and the child (Wilfred, the long-eared rabbit), who all lived at the home of “Uncle Dick”, waited on by Angeline, the house-maid, on — significantly for the Green Line — the London periphery.

“Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” had another significance for the men of that post-WW1 era: they were the nicknames of the campaign medals dished out with demobilisation:


So, I’m voting for Wilfred.

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Filed under advertising., Boris Johnson, Britain, History, Ireland, London, travel

Richard Lingeman introduces Molly Ivins

91tzMbFEaZL._SL1500_The Nation is a fine journal, and a deserving cause. It publishes some nice e-books, one of which includes seventeen columns by Molly Ivins.

Writing a preface to the Great Moll must be as taxing as buffing up a Rembrandt [that’s OTT, Redfellow: try “gussying up a Gillray”]. So I had to admire Richard Lingeman:

In 1976, the New York Times beckoned to her as part of a feminization drive at the newspaper. There also seemed to have been some hope that her humor-brightened reportage would liven up the Gray Lady of West Forty-third Street.

As it turned out, her career with the Times was not a happy one, though she started off covering big stories like the Son of Sam murders. But she didn’t really fit in. Maybe that all started when she showed up in the newsroom wearing jeans and trailed by her dog, Shit. The story goes that when she was serving as Rocky Mountain bureau chief in Denver (comprising a staff of one), she filed a story about the annual chicken slaughter in Corrales, New Mexico, which she referred to as a “gang pluck.” The Times’s executive editor Abe Rosenthal, who hated what he deemed to be wise-ass reporters who fooled with the news or snuck in double entendres, called her into his office and confronted her.

“Molly,” he said, getting right down to the obvious, “you are going to make readers think of a gang fuck.”

“Abe,” she replied, “you’re a hard man to fool.”

He consigned her to purgatory—covering City Hall—which left her little to do. Eventually she resigned. “Abe was a hard man to fool,” she commented.

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Filed under advertising., New York Times, United States

Today’s revelation: “to scamper”

The OED — bless its darkest-blue-covered heart — is a trifle iffy about the word:

Etymology:  Of uncertain origin.

Then we are given clues:

Not improbably the word was originally military slang, either from obsolete Dutch schampen ‘to escape or flie, or to be gone’ (Hexham 1660), which is < Old French escamper to decamp, or from Italian scampare to decamp, run away: see discamp v. A less likely, though possible, supposition is that it represents a Middle English derivative of the Old French word, preserved in some non-literary dialect.

I’m happy with the military bit, the “discamping”, particularly so because Smollett employs it in a particular context:

O Molly! the sarvants at Bath are devils in garnet. They lite the candle at both ends—Here’s nothing but ginketting, and wasting, and thieving and tricking, and trigging; and then they are never content—They won’t suffer the ‘squire and mistress to stay any longer; because they have been already above three weeks in the house; and they look for a couple of ginneys a-piece at our going away; and this is a parquisite they expect every month in the season; being as how no family has a right to stay longer than four weeks in the same lodgings; and so the cuck swears she will pin the dish-clout to mistress’s tail; and the house-maid vows, she’ll put cowitch in master’s bed, if so be he don’t discamp without furder ado—I don’t blame them for making the most of their market, in the way of vails and parquisites; and I defy the devil to say I am a tail-carrier, or ever brought a poor sarvant into trouble.

Consider: armies are usually bodies (indeed: many about permanently to be) of young men. Men, that is, without women. Which missing ingredient has traditionally been supplied, legitimately or mendaciously by … camp-followers.

On the whole, the army structure disapproves of the individual soldier betaking himself off in search of a pressing need. Which may therefore require an unauthorised excursion out of camp. Or, in (very-)late Latin, that would be something like ex-campare (which certainly doesn’t appear in my Lewis and Short, with its equally darkest-blue-covered heart) and which, in French, becomes that  escamper to decamp.

Continuing in the same theme, we arrive at—


The OED has just one citation from before the First World War for:

Ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate or homosexual; pertaining to or characteristic of homosexuals.

The source for that is:

James Redding Ware, Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English, slang, and phrase; 1909.

Ware, by the way, deserves recognition for creating (under the pen-name of ” Andrew Forrester”) “Miss Gladden”,  one of the earliest female detectives in fiction.

Sonntag, bloody Sonntag

Back in 1964, the young Susan Sonntag wrote an essay, Notes on “Camp”, and tried to provide an all-embracing description:

Random examples of items which are part of the canon of Camp:

Zuleika Dobson
Tiffany lamps
Scopitone films
The Brown Derby restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in LA
The Enquirer, headlines and stories
Aubrey Beardsley drawings
Swan Lake
Bellini’s operas
Visconti’s direction of Salome and ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore
certain turn-of-the-century picture postcards
Schoedsack’s King Kong
the Cuban pop singer La Lupe
Lynn Ward’s novel in woodcuts, God’s Man
the old Flash Gordon comics
women’s clothes of the twenties (feather boas, fringed and beaded dresses, etc.)
the novels of Ronald Firbank and Ivy Compton-Burnett
stag movies seen without lust

Err … yes. And no, because many of those mean very little to me.

Still, the essay is worth the study, if only because it strings together a quick history of the pretentious:

The late 17th and early 18th century is the great period of Camp: Pope, Congreve, Walpole, etc, but not Swift; les précieux in France; the rococo churches of Munich; Pergolesi. Somewhat later: much of Mozart.

I can take that, or leave it, but feel she is nearer the bone with this:

This [“the thing as pure artifice”] comes out clearly in the vulgar use of the word Camp as a verb, “to camp,” something that people do. To camp is a mode of seduction — one which employs flamboyant mannerisms susceptible of a double interpretation; gestures full of duplicity, with a witty meaning for cognoscenti and another, more impersonal, for outsiders. Equally and by extension, when the word becomes a noun, when a person or a thing is “a camp,” a duplicity is involved. Behind the “straight” public sense in which something can be taken, one has found a private zany experience of the thing.

 “To camp is a mode of seduction”

Right on!

Which puts us into the seduction of advertising, and all — scamper, camp, the meretricious and the mendacious — became clear: —


There you have a complete definition: the gaudiness, showmanship, excess, lack of taste: not to omit a prime exponent, Richard Branson.

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Filed under advertising., Oxford English Dictionary, Quotations