The blood thirsts for ... stamps?

PETER YORK ON ADS; No 178: ROYAL MAIL
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Much as I admire Alan Bennett, I hold him responsible for a lot of odd dialogue. It's written by people who have latched onto the notion of Northern folk contemplating big issues through small details in a wonderfully flat way, but haven't grasped the whole Bennett plot. The new Royal Mail "Tales of Terror" stamps ad has this sort of dialogue, pitched between Thora Hird and Anthony Blunt.

The setting is rather Bluntish and conspiratorial. In the back of a car going down Northumberland Avenue are a Refined Northern grande dame - think Baroness Castle in the Wilson years - and her squat, bespectacled side-kick Brian. In a matter-of-fact Bennett manner, they're discussing how one deals with vampires and reach the subject of wooden stakes.

"Then you drive it right through his heart."

"What if you miss?"

"You won't be getting a second chance."

"Silver bullets?"

"No, Brian, that's for werewolf."

In the mirror the driver's eyes skid around anxiously. And London does seem to be populated by the Undead. That cyclist mending his bike, the one with the extraordinary pall - at first glance a member of the "East London Gay and Lesbian TV Collective" - isn't he a bit spooky? And the young man in the woolly hat with his dog, isn't he a bit on the dead side? (Alas, these London types are too familiar to be remotely scarey).

It's obviously all the fault of Royal Mail's new mission for stamps, namely "Stamps stimulate". It's one thing for the Marketing Director, Stamps, to get up and say this kind of thing to a rapt management-conference, but quite another to put it on screen. Perhaps the idea is to stimulate 11-year-olds into buying stamps and sending letters - though I doubt it'll work. And perhaps it's a hard year for commemoratives. But what next, Ronald McDonald? In any other country of course, we'd have the Tony Blair stamp.

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