Electric Stout

Window Number 3 Please

Window Number 3 Please

Last week I ordered a pint of Guinness and was asked which type. I wanted a draft but they offered a choice of cans. It seems a new way of preparing the black stuff has been invented. What appears to be straight un-gassed Guinness is poured from a can and the glass placed on an ultrasonic vibrating plate. Abracadabra: Draught Guinness. All very clever but, as one drinker in a local pub commented: “I feel cheated by them pouring it from a can”. I know what she means, it just doesn’t seem right. One day we’ll run out of oil to fuel the power stations, the electricity will go off and we wont even be able to get a fucking pint of Guinness.

But I guess the draught we’re used to slurping with it’s creamy head is a comparatively new invention which came about by forcing beer through the pipes with gas, nitrogen in the case of Guinness. And the draught from a can with it’s funny widgets seemed odd at first.

In another boozer on Friday night I noticed that the beer pump displays seem to be getting absurdly tall. More evidence that marketing has gazumped taste in every aspect of our lives. Perhaps it is also to protect the bar staff from rowdy punters, a little like the glass windows in banks. Eventually we’ll have these windows in pubs. We’ll join a communal queue and a recorded voice will enunciate “Window number 3 please” in a repetitive jaunty voice and we’ll step up to the window, place our order and insert our credit cards into a slot. A moment later an apparatchik behind the bar will push the pints through a little window. It’s called progress and it’s coming to a pub near you. On the subject of progress the TV tells me that I should use a Gillette Fusion ProGlide which, apparently, is a razor with 5 blades. Only five, do they take me for an idiot?

Yachts

Yachts

Blame the BRANDS for flogging a dead horse

Ahhh...Bisto!

Ahhh!..Bisto!

It’s facinating how faith in British institutions is collapsing. One by one, like a row of dominos, British institutions are revealing themselves to be greedy, amoral and corrupt. The bankers of course (we all hate the bankers), the politicians fiddling their expenses, the press tapping our phones and the police forging documents and making false statements.

Now it is the turn of the food companies to demonstrate their complacency and disregard for their core business as #horsegate dominates the twittersphere. First a little horse DNA was found in beef burgers, then one type of burger at Tesco was found to consist of 29% horse meat and now Findus beef lasagne has been found to be 100% horse meat.

The cause is said to be an overcomplicated supply chain. In corporate Britain, the farmer and the supermarket are linked by a plethora of abattoirs  trading companies, agents and futures dealers. It’s so complicated that the retailers don’t know what they’re selling. So who’s to blame?

The last I heard the politician were passing the buck to shady criminal gangs in eastern Europe. Hmmm….could be. It’s possible that foreign criminals are a link in the supply chain but that’s a cop out. The real question is why, supposedly legitimate, British food companies are dealing with foreign criminals?

The real blame for #horsegate lies firmly with the brands.

In the idiot world of the 21st century, retail sales are dominated by marketing and the key to marketing is branding. The brands seek to control their public image. BMW tell us that their cars are reliable, powerful and technically sophisticated, Louis Vuiton tells us they make nice bags and the major food brands tell us that their food is quick, delicious and nutritious. The goal of their marketing is to gain our trust – and they succeed, we trust them. We trust the food brands to ensure that the products which we buy are as described. We trust that we will get an fair deal. Obviously their marketing has been projecting a false image.

It’s mind boggling! Did the people who make the lasagne not notice that this was not beef? Are they so ignorant of food and so bereft of cooking skills that they can’t tell horse from beef? If they can’t even put the right animal into their food products then this calls into question the quality control of their entire operation. If the meat is horse rather than beef, can we trust that the milk is being pasteurised or that free range eggs are not from caged birds?

Wikipedia states: “Brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company…and how it relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners, investors etc”. It is the brands with which the public have the relationship and it is the brands which we trust. The creation of trust might be said to be the raison d’etre of a brand. If the brands now pass the blame to their suppliers then their brand names becomes worthless. If Tesco don’t know what is in their products then we may as well buy any old burgers.

In an overly commercialised world this scandal may be an unwelcome but useful wake up call. In the short term the high street butchers will gain from #horsegate but it is the responsibility of the major food brands to get their supply chains under control. They should spend more time on intrinsic quality and less on marketing.

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

Art in Rome – All hail the EU Teflon Targets

Rome Convention Center by Fuksas Associati

Rome Convention Center by Fuksas Associati

Ah Rome. The Eternal City. The ancient monuments, the romance, the pizza. The eternal bloody queue for Easyjet. I’ve visited before and appreciated all this but last week I was struck by the art. Johnny Roman is not ashamed of his interest in art. Good for him. On arriving in my hotel the curtains were drawn. I opened them and there was this thing sitting there embedded in the half constructed building next door. At first I thought it might be an attempt to construct a giant flying saucer in the middle of an office block. Perhaps they thought it would be inconspicuous – it was not! In fact it was the half constructed Italian Government’s Congress Centre designed by Massimiliano Fuksas and which will contains an enormous ‘cloud’ made of teflon. That’s right, you read correctly. A cloud made of teflon and what’s more the cloud will glow from within, and will contain an auditorium. What I was viewing was the skeleton of this building. Why Teflon? Well your Roman doesn’t eat much fried food and so they have no real use for their their quota of EU teflon production and so they have decided to paint it all over their public buildings. Imaginative thinking you see.

Hotel dei Congressi, Rome

Hotel dei Congressi, Rome

In England we have consternations and letters from Prince Charles whenever the Shard or the Gherkin are mentioned but your Roman takes pride in this sort of nonsense. In the office the next day I found a dozen paintings in the style of a range of famous artists portraying the company product. Witty and fun. Later, after I’d had a chance to explore the hotel, I found a selection of artwork decorating the interior from statues and paintings to some beautiful small model buildings. This is not to say that Rome does not suffer the ghastliness of hyper-capitalism like the rest of us. At the airport, while taking pictures, I was told to refrain as photography was “not possible”. However, I managed to get this glimpse of the almost Soviet advertising poster for some kind of photocopy machine. All hail to the polit bureau for another year exceeding EU teflon production targets!

Una storia de condividere ogni giorno (All hail the EU Teflon Targets)

Una storia de condividere ogni giorno (All hail the EU Teflon Targets)

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Buy Poppies at Fine Art America

Poppies

January

Hooray! January is over. What an awful month! You get up and it’s dark, you go to work and it’s dark. You come home and it’s dark. And it’s cold. And it snows. And the snow instantly turnes to slush or black ice. And it rains. And there are car accidents and there are traffic jams and the bloody train system closes down.

But January is over. We’ve survived and on Monday the sun broke through just as I got to work. Isn’t the sun fantastic? We British are stalwarts. We persevere through these bloody winter days but every now and them we get a glimpse of what life is supposed to be like and it’s beautiful.

The people who do road works have decided that the wiggly bit in the A23 just before Handcross isn’t difficult enough for drivers so they’ve added a few hazards. They have run a line of cones along the outside lane and painted two extra sets of centre lines down the road. So now there is a chicane where drivers can’t tell where the middle is and so meander around like morons.

The Wiggly Bit in the A23

The Wiggly Bit in the A23

Still, we have a bit of sun at last which creates some great light just after the rain.

Sun on the South Downs from Edburton Road

Sun on the South Downs from Edburton Road

And in Brighton today I noticed a great new bit of street art in St. George’s Mews along with some written words seeming to blame globalisation for poverty in Africa.

St George's Mews

St George’s Mews

Rose

Buy Roses at Fine Art America