The coming war between Amazon and Britain's superstores to seize a chunk of the UK's online groceries-delivery market promises to be titanic. The chore of buying the same old fruit-'n'-veg-'n'-chicken-thighs-'n'-bread-'n'-wine every week has become so boring that lots of us have turned to using Tesco's or Sainsbury's', or in my case Waitrose/Ocado's, computerised shopping services. Not all of us, of course – just 13 per cent of food shoppers, apparently – but it's a figure set to rise. To be able to call up your weekly to-get list on screen, make minor adjustments (it's July – more sunscreen, strawberries and wet wipes!) then press a button to have it delivered to your front door – well, it's the answer to a maiden's prayer.
It's a fantastically lucrative market: Ocado, a comparatively small player, have announced they're soon to float on the London Stock Exchange at a value of £1.1bn. Amazon will be eyeing Tesco's domination of the scene and wondering how to challenge it – but can they? Really? Shall we recall our many woeful experiences with the world's largest online retailer over the years? All those books and DVDs that went awry, turned up two months late, turned up in triplicate or involved astounding price extras? All those nudging demands about other things you might want to buy? All the time it took to negotiate your way to the checkout?
Imagine if you were trying to buy a humble pork chop on Amazon. You go to the site, click on "pork chop" and be told, "IN STOCK. 236 new from £1.20. 17 used from £0.55. 2 collectible from £10. Want guaranteed delivery by Friday 9 July?" As you're trying to decide, they'll flash up the message, "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." followed by a tirade of otiose guff about apple sauce, roast potatoes, red cabbage and Rennies. Then, some way down the screen come the customer reviews: "I've never tried Pork Chop be4, feering there might be issues around Jewishness, Zionism etc, but I was pleasantly surprised. It tastes strongly of pig, with elements of fat round the edges, but it goes down your throat and stays there. I'll definately be recommending it to friends!!!"
So you order it, pay for it, sit at home and wait for it, looking forward to a lovely pork dinner the following night. Sadly, it never arrives, and you ring a takeaway as usual. As luck will have it, one (slightly odiferous) cardboard package containing your chop will be delivered, three weeks later, to an address in west London, Ontario...
Don't get too carried away, Neil
I've been hooked on Radio 4's A History of the World in 100 Objects ever since it started in about 4598BC (it seems to have been going on forever,) despite two things: 1) the terrible wailey-woo voice, and the song-of-antiquity-with-strummed-lute music that announce the programme; and 2) the constant mismatch between the object so thrillingly described by Professor Neil MacGregor and the visual evidence provided by the BBC website.
Time and again I've been moved to inspect Object No 34 or Object No 51 in all their glory, only to find a lump of rock or a collection of pot shards which cannot, even by the most brutal application of archaeological analysis, be plausibly imagined as a Stone Age calculator or a Bronze Age jigsaw. Sometimes, one wonders if the professor is in the grip of some hallucinogen, especially when he's talking about powerful women. Two weeks ago, he dealt with a Mayan limestone carving that depicts a king and queen, with the queen saucily kissing the cord of the king's tunic; MacGregor assured us they were "engaged in an agonising scene of ritual bloodletting". You what?
Yesterday, he was at it again, inspecting the statue of a jolly-looking, bare-breasted woman with an open mouth – like an early inflatable sex toy – and identifying her as an Aztec divinity called Tlazoteotl, "goddess of filth...into whose mouth all the excrement of the world was poured". Neil? Are you okay?
What we're all longing to know, of course, is which 20th-century objects MacGregor will deem to be a crucial part of world history. Some will be too obvious to miss out – motor car, movie camera, silicon chip, iPhone – but what about the humbler objects that changed the world for some of us? Like disposable nappies, contact lenses, the Automobile Association, screw-top wine bottles and the universal bath plug? Will he devote a whole programme to Sliced Bread? And will he (typically) identify it as "a terrifying, ritual dismemberment of baked dough"?
Ridley Scott's quest for 'real life' is doomed
Stand by for some energetic posing on Saturday fortnight, when the film directors Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald will ask 20 people around the world to "capture moments of their daily lives" on YouTube, as contributions to a documentary called Life in One Day – one of those "time capsule" experiments meant to enlighten future generations about The Way We Used To Be.
Oh please. How doomed to failure is that? Anyone who has the least acquaintance with YouTube knows the kind of thing that rules its airwaves.
Rather than revealing anything real and true about "what it was like to be alive on the 24th July, 2010", the footage will be full of Darth Vader lookalikes being effortfully comic in supermarket aisles, domestic scenes of cute babies biting their siblings' fingers or swearing for the camera, and newly married couples performing cray-zee dance routines to "You're the One that I Want". Not so much a snapshot of reality, as a glimpse of life on Planet Showoff.