Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, there are far too many people in this world content to define themselves by what they buy in gift shops. Ornaments, objets d'art, cute little table decorations that remind us of where we went and who we met and how much fun we had last summer. Patronisingly, we used to think "these people" were simply people from our parents' generation, and that we – their post-modern, post-industrial, post-irony offspring – were above buying into a world populated by tiny bamboo windmills, oversized pewter mugs or varnished table logs covered in onomatopoeic declarations of the most mawkish sentimentality. But we are as guilty as they, as any visit to your local high- street PoMo gift shop will prove; it's just that the array of tat these days is just so much more sophisticated. So instead of a doormat emblazoned with "Bless This House", we have "Dirt". Instead of a snowstorm showing a scene of domestic bliss, we have one showing a coke dealer. Geddit? Of course you do: everyone gets it these days, even those who would prefer not to.

And we, for our sins, think they're funny, cute, knowing – just like the previous generation did. The only difference being that we have a more heightened sense of sarcasm – which is what a lot of irony really is, sadly. Predictably, this irony is pitched at increasingly lower levels – which, using the rule of thumb employed by the very worst comedians, makes it easier and easier to be reductive about pretty much anything. For example, is there any shop in your nearest town that doesn't sell some sort of "Warhol-inspired" posters, framed prints, bath mats, table mats or coffee cups? And who says a coffee mug that looks like the cover of an old Penguin book is really any more sophisticated than a nodding dog in the back of a burgundy Seat Alhambra?

But just last week I saw a tea towel in the window of a shop in Hay-on-Wye which actually made me smile. I didn't smile so much that I started wondering if I ought to start being defined by things I occasionally buy in gift shops, but I reckon I might not be far off.

And what did the tea towel say?

"I had a really nice dream last night about Daniel Craig."

I didn't, of course, but you see what I mean.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'