Bunhill: A tricky case for the Europeans
Sunday 15 December 1996
Better, surely, to offend everyone equally. We are thus pleased to unveil the Bunhill euro, in which we have tried to incorporate as many stereotypes as possible.
Note, for example, the drunken reindeer to represent Scandinavia, the broken plate for Greece and various other icons that need no explanation. It seems only right that my portrait should be on the note: I am equally loved by all Europeans, except foreign ones.
My design team and I spent weeks casting around for a theme that would unite Europe in contradistinction to, say, the United States. It was not easy ( which is why the single currency will not work, but that is another matter). But we did eventually decide that the spirit of Europe should be just that: booze. Ask for a glass of wine anywhere left of Barbados and you will be served with a chilly look. In Europe, still, a glass of wine is what you will get - which is why our note is scattered with alcohol.
There is, in truth, little point in getting too excited about the euro note, because it will soon become irrelevant. We will not be carrying around notes - we will have a small piece of plastic called an electronic purse which we will use to pay for everything, everywhere.
This of course leads on to the question of what to put on these cards. Banks and whatnot will probably want their logos. This is dull - we should be able to put photos of our children, tortoises, racehorses or maybe, if we are nostalgic, a good old-fashioned five pound note. Me, I will have a picture of Bunhill - moi-meme.
I predict a mighty battle - between the sub-editors of the British press and the US legal system. The war will be fought over Cordis or, critically, CORDIS.
I was talking last week with chaps from the Common Market who run an information system called the Community R&D Information Service, or CORDIS. As I left, they extracted a promise from me - that I would always write the word in capital letters. "An American medical equipment company called Cordis has threatened to sue us," they said. "The only way we can go on is by promising we will always use capital letters."
Trouble is, newspapers have something called house style which, to sub- editors, comes somewhere between the third and fourth commandments in importance. On this newspaper, if an acronym can be pronounced as a word, it is written in big and little letters. So when they see my word CORDIS, they will almost certainly strike it down, and the European Commission will have to pay out billions of dollars.
So if the word cordis appears in capital letters in this piece (and I have no control over that), the Common Market owes me a few hundred quid out of gratitude.
Sandy Sandison of Hildenborough, Kent, has noticed an advertisement for a publication in the Chartered Insurance Institute Journal. "Alien reinsurance in the US market," it is called.
Is this reinsurance of aliens, I wonder, or reinsurance by aliens? If the former, how does the premium on a Martian compare with that of a Plutocrat (is that what they're called?)? If the latter, are we about to see photographs of impoverished Martian Names?
Surveys are reaching epidemic proportions - someone should do a survey to find out how many there are. One of the more bizarre is the Presswatch Quarterly, which has just landed on my desk. It counts the number of times companies have been mentioned in the press during the quarter, subtracts unfavourable mentions from favourable ones, and comes up with a ranking. Most favoured company is Tesco (+953); Morgan Grenfell comes bottom, scoring -1,462.
How do they decide whether an article is positive or negative? The best pieces, in my view, are a delicate shade of grey with a hint of apricot - but for Presswatch, they must be black or white. I suggest a colour palate be used instead: this article is light blue, this one grey, this one black. Mix them up and voila! A nice colour for each company. What a pretty piece that would make when the listings are published.
It's still Advent and those executive stocking fillers are coming in nicely. Laurence Manning suggests processed cheese slices, which survived the Channel tunnel fire. "No traveller should be without this nutritious snack which unfolds into a safety fire blanket." Alan Jones (him again) suggests Lard on a Rope ("for palm-greasing") and A Scrapbook of the Collected Wisdom of Bunhill (is he after the champagne, or what?).
Magy Higgs (not her again) notes that the telegram address for Harrods used to be "Anything, London". So this year, she says, they are promoting the Anything Department.
"Anythings are available in rainbow colours, all sizes and both winter and summer weights: unisex, biodegradable, non-toxic. There's an Executive Anything, in see-through wraps, fitted with a parachute, buoyancy ring and safety cut-out. Floats for hours and shines in the dark. There's also the `Anything for the Weekend?' pack, opaquely packaged, waterproofed, unsinkable, peppermint-flavoured, banned in Colombia and silent in use."
I can't remember whether Ms Higgs uses champagne, but she's getting a bottle anyway.
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