Tuesday 21 September 1999
Britain suggested that this episode was but a historical trailer for "The Brits in Ireland". Architectural styles and fashion crazes constantly hark back to the glorious creations of previous periods. Mosquitoes descend on New York, echoing the plague of locusts of biblical times. So what contemporary parallels could our readers' fertile imaginations suggest for well-known historical events?
Bruce Birchall thinks he must be an albatross, as three houses he's lived in have all been demolished by the council; he ruefully recalls a spraypainted slogan: "What the Luftwaffe couldn't manage, the GLC finally achieved". Sandy Thompson remembers a time when Alsatians were demonised in Fleet Street's imagination, and nobody had heard of Rottweilers then - while Alsatians are now peaceable German shepherds.
Today's Dick Turpins, claims Susan Parker, are the bailiffs employed by debt collectors to seize your goods for sale: they want your money and your life. Tom Cohen sees computer dating as a mechanisation of the skills of the traditional Jewish matchmaker, while Jill Parsons, whose dad was at Dunkirk, recalls another flotilla crossing the Channel in 1066, and another English defeat . . .
Nigel Plevin thinks the unraised Millennium Wheel will be a Stonehenge II, to puzzle future archaeologists. Tamara Mills thinks Steve Jobs has reinvented the "Big Mac". Peter Thomas looks into his crystal ball and foresees Teletubbies invading Poland. "What had a huge hit in 1998, as it had in 1912?" asks quizmaster Eric Bridgstock. (So huge, it was Titanic!)
Marx and Engels have been replaced by Marks & Spencer, Mike Gifford moans, and the Iron Age by the Iron Lady and her Stone Age values. "Tinker, tailor, OAP, spy" chants T.M. O'Grady, counting plum stones on his plate. It used to be the Martyrdom of St Stephen; now everybody gets stoned, says Michael Jagger. And Janet Elms has this overwhelming sense of deja vu, looking at the outcome of a democratic vote in East Timor and the military's inability to accept it . . .
Janet Elms, Susan Parker and Sandy Thompson win a Chambers Dictionary of Quotations. The Patten Report on policing in Northern Ireland was radical, in the changes it advocated. Loki's sense of mischief wondered what might happen if the idea caught on and every out-of-touch, disliked and in-a-rut institution was obliged to undergo a similar transformation.
Suggestions for imaginative changes you would bring in (to any institution) to Loki.Valhalla @btinternet.com or Creativity, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL, by 30 September. Results and three more prizes on 5 October. Next week: what creative chaos may ensue once machines start acting without human instructions.
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