The future is perfect

'Right now, there are some people who are having a meeting to decide what colour is going to be fashionable in the summer of 2003'
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When we open our magazines at this time of year and see lissom lovelies modelling the new season's bikinis, or find a photo-feature on mouth-watering picnic ideas, with happy families sprawling in a meadow around smoked-chicken salads and home-cooked terrines, it never occurs to us that those photographs weren't taken yesterday; they were taken six months ago, in the depths of winter, and those poor bathing beauties and picnicking posers were probably freezing to death at the time.

When we open our magazines at this time of year and see lissom lovelies modelling the new season's bikinis, or find a photo-feature on mouth-watering picnic ideas, with happy families sprawling in a meadow around smoked-chicken salads and home-cooked terrines, it never occurs to us that those photographs weren't taken yesterday; they were taken six months ago, in the depths of winter, and those poor bathing beauties and picnicking posers were probably freezing to death at the time.

Yes, it takes a lot of forward planning to make an age of instant gratification like ours possible, and right now there are people working away, silently and selflessly, so that we can reap the fruits of their toil in six months, a year, or more. Today, I would like to pay tribute to just a few of those people. What kind of people? Well, people like those who, at this very moment in June 2002, are:

* Getting into gaily coloured thick woollen scarves, gloves and mufflers for a Christmas photo-feature called "Fun and Fashion in the Snow", and preparing to work themselves up to a horrible sweat in some very painful artificial snow.

* Updating the stock obituaries on the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

* Cudgelling their brains and their medical books to produce yet another article for Christmas on "How to Beat That Hangover !", even though they know there is no way of beating that hangover, as they knew last year and the year before.

* Starting some gentle training in preparation for the long run-up to the Olympics in 2004.

* Ringing round people to get some finance to make a film of the one recent bestselling novel that has never been filmed, for reasons that will become clear as soon as they start to film it.

* Attempting to become the first all-woman team to trace Michael Palin's route around the world in 80 days.

* Updating obituaries on the Pope, Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro.

* Doing some preliminary research on a Christmas feature to be entitled "The 100 Best Sledges in the World".

* Filming the Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special.

* Going to bed with a celebrity who has no idea that everything he does there will be featured in a Sunday paper this autumn.

* Dressing up in a very skimpy Mother Christmas outfit for the front of a men' s magazine.

* Being landed on a desert island with five other people and a camera crew of 20 to start filming a new survival programme to be called Christmas Castaway.

* Putting the finishing touches to the police anti-drink and drive campaign for Christmas 2002, to be called, somewhat desperately, "Go Home Sober, Stay Home Drunk".

* Having a meeting to decide what colour is going to be fashionable in the summer of 2003.

* Looking at the first proofs of the calendars for AD2003.

* Having a hard time finding many good sledges and persuading the editor that it might be more realistic to have a feature called "The 50 Best Sledges In The World".

* Updating the obituaries on Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman.

* Planning a comeback for Chris Evans.

* Making a firm booking for some whizz-kid violinist for a classical music festival in 2004, by which time he'll be old hat.

* Digging up some archive footage of Mike Yarwood, Gilbert O'Sullivan etc, for a new programme called After They Were Famous.

* Concealing a government memo that admits that there was absolutely no point slaughtering all those healthy cattle in the foot-and-mouth crisis, and that it was a grotesque error of judgement by Labour.

* Interviewing Osama bin Laden for an "A Cave Of My Own" feature.

* Putting the finishing touches to an instant paperback called World Cup 2002, due out in July.

* Updating the obituaries on Bob Dylan, Cliff Richard, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, etc, etc.

* Making a complete mess of some quite simple line of dialogue and bursting into raucous laughter, which wouldn't have been quite so raucous if they had known it was all going to be shown again by Dennis Norden next Christmas.

* Scrapping a feature called "The Dozen Best Sledges in the World" and going for "The Season's Sledges: Six of the Best".

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