Bunhill: That just about wraps it up from me

IT'S HARD to know what to make of Cool Britannia when our designers, musicians and artists try to break the mould and stuffy institutions like the MCC lovingly preserve it. However, tradition is still a staple ingredient in our cultural melting pot because one flavour keeps rising to the surface: good old salt 'n' vinegar. The seasoning is supplied by Harry Ramsden's, which has taken Fat Britannia and sold it to the world; its fish-and-chip restaurants are frying tonight in locations as far-flung as Jeddah and Hong Kong.

That such a tried and tested formula should flourish overseas is not surprising since, for a local spit 'n' sawdust pub, your best bet is probably Majorca. More radically, however, Harry Ramsden's is now taking British tradition back to the British, using the small shed from which it started trading in 1928 as a template for a new chain of diners. Measuring 2,000 square feet and seating 60 people, it is expected that these humble huts will soon be appearing across the country, particularly in retail parks.

"Harry Ramsden's sees an opportunity for going back 70 years and taking the hut format forward," says a spokeswoman for the company. "There is a strong demand among the British public for tradition."

You suspect that going back to the future may well be a winning formula because for all the traffic drawn to out-of-town developments, the emotional pull is still exerted by the past. And as an illustration of our loveless embrace of "progress", nothing could be more apt than taking a chip shop to a retail park and locating it among the plastic palm trees. Deep-fried spuds as post-modernist exercise in ironic juxtaposition ... there's some food for thought while you're splashing on the vinegar.

Taken to its logical conclusion, you might just as well stick a high street through the middle of Brent Cross. Indeed, the day can't be far off when shopping centres comprise butchers, bakers, greengrocers and barbers ... and people lament the passing of the good old "retail experience".

However, you know the saying about today's news... If you're reading this article now, you may well be sitting in a chip shop.

RARELY can upper lips have been so stiff as at Buckingham Palace last week when part of the ballroom ceiling landed on a guest's head during an investiture ceremony. The people present were made of much sterner stuff than the plasterwork, however: the Queen glanced up but then continued with the ceremony, the military band played on, and the guests stayed exactly where they were out of due deference to decorum. All as it should be, of course: you can't let something as trifling as impending catastrophe stop a ceremony.

Stirring tales of stoicism and heroic indifference to cataclysm are not limited to the Palace, though. Jeff Howell, our in-house property expert (well he'd have to be in-house, wouldn't he), tells me of a night when British reserve held sway during a dinner party at a house "in need of modernisation".

The main problem for the guests was a leak in the ceiling, an inconvenience compounded by the hosts' strange reluctance to use a bucket to catch the water. Instead, the receptacle was a strategically placed salad bowl in the middle of the dining table. Being British, the guests were too polite to point out that the lettuce was a little over-washed, so the small talk continued. But gradually the hostess grew more and more distracted and eventually she could stand it no longer. "Can't you do something about this?" she demanded of her husband. "The baby's spilt the potty."

It's the surreal thing

TIME was when you could rely on Guinness to come up with abstruse adverts in which fish rode bicycles, a man danced round an outsize glass to a Latin soundtrack, and chess players moved giant pieces. It was so dependable that you never knew where you stood with a pint of the black stuff. But now the word in Soho is that a new campaign, scheduled for release in May or June, will dispense with artiness and get back to the basics of talking about the brand.

Naturally, I was so alarmed that I rang up the company, because to drop the ads that make no sense would seem to make no sense - especially when the name of Guinness's new parent company, Diageo, clearly comes from the same school of lateral thinking.

Now once upon a time, when surrealism ruled at Guinness, my enquiry would have been met with a straight "Astronaut horse". But now they're much more down to earth. Without giving anything away about the campaign, a spokesman said that Guinness had a tradition for innovation going back to the 1930s. "People look twice at our advertising and that's what it's all about," he explained. "We don't say 'here's a pint of Guinness, buy it'."

So it's safe to assume, then, that the company won't be moving from lateral to literal. While it may be dispensing with its surrealist black-and-white ads, we're hardly likely to encounter people being asked to swap one glass of Guinness for two pints of their old beer, or someone boasting: "Take two bottles in the shower? Not me!"

It's rumoured that the new campaign will feature the catchphrase "Good things come to those who wait". Now if this is a reference to the time it takes a pint of Guinness to settle, it seems probable that the ad will take over the entire evening schedule on ITV and News at Ten will become News at three in the Morning. In fact, given that the company wants to make its product relevant to the values of people at the end of the millennium, another catchphrase suggests itself: "Guinness - you order a pint and it takes a thousand years."

SO BARCLAYS is to open a new telephone banking centre in Sunderland thanks to the skills of the local workforce and, more particularly, an accent that "engenders warmth and trust". Just to prove Barclays knows what it's talking about, here's that first telephone transcript:

Cockney caller: "I wanna monkey an' I wannit now."

Telephone operator: "What ye taakin' aboot, man?"

CC: "Eh? I want some folding 'cos I'm making a film."

TO: "A fillum?"

CC: "Nah, a film. Can you advance us some readies?"

TO: "Ye mean ye want a lurn?"

CC: "I'll bloody learn ya! I wanna loan."

TO: "I divvent knaa aboot that. But we do a canny package for the yem."

CC: "You're 'aving a larf, mate."

TO: "You mean a laff?"

CC: "No, a larf - like you 'ave a barf."

TO: "What yer gannin' an aboot, man, woman?

CC: "Look, are you gonna give us some money, or wot?"

TO: "No, you need a bank for that, man. This is Backley's Bunk, the bed shop."

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