An exquisite new torture to inflict on friends and relatives is a CD-Rom of your wedding (you 'click' on a pair of cherubs to move forward or back)

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Indy Lifestyle Online
While we're all sitting here waiting for the Palace to announce the imminent engagement of Prince Edward (or so my shrieky chums on the Diary tell me), let us ponder a startling statistic: there were 350,000 weddings last year. Given a standard rate of two people getting married per wedding, that means 700,000 sentient souls willingly threw away any prospect of happiness, peace, decent conversation or erotic fulfilment. I had not thought romance had undone so many. And according to a survey of 2,000 readers by Wedding & Home magazine, each full-blown nuptial involves an average outlay of pounds 8,653. Leaving aside the eternal wail of "Why?", one wonders, "What on?"

To this end I trolled off to the National Wedding Show at Olympia and watched in amazement as, stalking along a catwalk that emerged from a tacky mock-up of a church tower, a procession of models displayed the state of the art of marriage modes. One of the model brides wore a golden asp curled around her neck, another flapped a fan of white ostrich feathers, while a third peeped coyly through a frilly carnival mask. The highlight of the show was a pounds 20,000 gown by Elizabeth Emanuel (a name that's hardly a good-luck token in the marriage stakes), so bizarre in appearance that it drained the blood from the faces of the onlooking brides-to-be.

The organisers had, I'm happy to report, not forgotten the chaps. Recognising that few would be attending of their own free will, they laid on a "Groom's Creche", where the arrested adolescents would keep themselves out of mischief firing laser rifles or zooming round a mini-circuit on motorised beerkegs.

All round the hall, enterprises desperate for a slice of the British wedding cake displayed their wares from tulle- wrapped stands. An exquisite new torture to inflict on friends and relatives is a CD-Rom of your wedding at pounds 499 (you "click" on a pair of cherubs to move forward or back).

A three-tier wedding cake called "Crescent" from Selfridges was more of a bargain, at pounds 400 - the only drawback was that, as the name implies, it looks as if someone generously endowed in the gob department has taken a munch from each layer. But as a metaphor for the inroads which marriage is shortly to make on your sanity, your net salary, your freedom, hope and life, it's not wholly inappropriate.

It's exciting to discover in a new guide, published since the Marriage Act relaxed the rules last year, more than 500 attractively outre places to get married. Depending on your personality traits, the Reptile House at London Zoo may strike you as the ideal place to tie the knot. Or perhaps the Bass Museum of Brewing? You can have the whole of Cliveden for a mere pounds 45,000, or, for the socially less aspirant, Cleckheaton Town Hall for pounds 100. A couple of high-fliers might fancy Tan Hill Inn, at 1,732 feet the highest pub in Britain. The list of 500 possible venues does not, as yet, include any of Britain's divorce courts. But it might be worth a thought, it would at least have the merit of convenience.

What is it about Tony Blair's teeth that people don't like? Are they too numerous, too white or too often on parade? Dr Jonathan Miller, I feel, speaks for many when he says, in the latest issue of the Labour-supported magazine Prospect. "I look and listen to the man and don't feel encouraged... It's all rather dauntingly convincing in its glib, Pepsodent way. There is a sort of orthodontic gleam to the man."

This raises an important point: when did Dr Miller last buy toothpaste in Britain? I doubt if Pepsodent has been sold here for two decades. Does he import the stuff from the US, where I believe it is still available, thus enabling him to gargle, "You'll wonder where the yellow went..." between arias from Cosi Fan Tutti?

If Dr Miller were to pop along to his local Boots in Camden Town, he would notice a few changes in the burgeoning dental section. The past couple of years, something called "whitening toothpaste" (as if all previous types of dentifrice contributed nothing to that end) has become all the rage.

The first whitening toothpaste to hit the UK market was an American product costing nearly eight quid a tube. Its name is "Rembrandt". Quite why is not made clear. There's little about Rembrandt van Rijn (1609-1669) which brings brilliant white to mind. He was a master of the murk. Brown or fustian dominates in almost all his oeuvre. As with his palette, so with his person. One contemporary noted that, "the ugly and plebian face with which he was ill-favoured was accompanied by untidy and dirty clothes."

Perhaps there is a Dutch connection with the toothpaste. Its manufacturer is the Den Mat Corporation of Santa Marie, California. It is remotely possible that the owner is one Henryk den Mat and he wanted to link his fancy new molar-mulch with the old country. More likely, Den Mat is merely a snappy abbreviation of "Dental Materials" and the product's curious name originated in some Stateside marketing think tank:

"What about an artist? Think about it. Art= money=white teeth."

"Yeah, but which one?"

"Anyone famous. Picasso?"

"Paloma's got him."

"OK, Michaelangelo then."

"Not him. People won't want to brush with Michaelangelo. Wasn't he was a bit, er, you know..."

"One of those Dutch guys then. Vermeer."

"Sounds like 'smear', something for the john."

"I know - Rembrandt?"

Whether, in Mr Blair's case, white teeth will finally equal power, we will have to wait and see. Doubtless, in the meantime, he'll be putting in more energetic brushwork. Rather like Rembrandt.

The political obverse of Mr Blair's smile is, of course, John Prescott's scowl. Displayed so gloriously last month during Harriet Harman's mauvais quart d'heure at the despatch box, it has apparently been stored away, carefully wrapped in tissue paper. During the parliamentary debate on the Scott report last week, Mr Prescott looked positively benign.

It would be a shame if the scowl has gone for good, banished by Peter Mandelstam as a vote-loser. The People's Party has traditionally done a good line in glaring. Among previous generations of Labour leaders, Ernie Bevin, Ray Gunter and Denis Healey spring to mind as first-class frowners. Catch any on a bad day and they could crack a plate-glass window. Perhaps the master of the nasty eyeful was the late, remarkably unlovely Eric Heffer. Among parliamentary gagsters, it was customary to wait until someone criticised Mr Heffer's commitment, man management, diplomatic skills, etc and murmur, unfairly, "Of course, he's not as nice as he looks..."

It was Mr Prescott's piercing stare, however, that sprang to my mind recently while reading a new biography of Al Capone by Laurence Bergreen. As a trainee gangster, Capone devoted much time to perfecting "the look". According to Mr Bergreen, this was "a deadly gaze designed to strike fear into the hearts of enemies. Done right, this Rasputin-like, mesmerising gaze could be more effective than a blow to the chin. Young hoods practiced in their mirrors, often for hours, until they got it right." While far from suggesting any resemblance between Mr Prescott and Mr Capone, I do wonder if the Deputy Labour leader happened to visit Chicago at any stage of his merchant navy career

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