Filofaxes ain't what they used to be

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The Independent Online
From time to time I bring you a Where Are They Now? feature, in which we look back at the names of forgotten celebrities and ask whatever happened to such people as Mike Yarwood and General Galtieri. Today I thought it would be instructive to turn our attention to things. Things that were once familiar, objects we once lived with, but which have vanished from our lives without leaving a farewell note. And to ask the question: where are they now?

Alternative Comedy

Alternative comedy burst on to our consciousness some time in the early Eighties, when the whole comedy scene was shaken to its roots by the appearance of comedians who were as rude as Max Miller and disrespectful as Beyond the Fringe, as inventive as The Goon Show and as surrealist as Monty Python. Nothing like it had been known before, unless you knew about Max Miller, The Goon Show, Monty Python or Beyond the Fringe. It was called Alternative Comedy because, as one of its early practitioners said, "If you didn't like comedy, this is a good alternative". Ben Elton now writes novels.

Irish Question, The

The Irish Question is always with us, but it always changes just as soon as it looks like attracting an answer. The Irish Question used to be "Why can't the Irish stop all this mullarkey and live together in peace?" but recently it has changed, and the Irish Question is now as follows: "Why has Ireland suddenly become so damned fashionable, what with every bar in sight being turned into an Irish so-called pub, and this Riverdance nonsense with nobody moving from the waist up, and Father Ted being so popular and Irish comedians winning the Perrier Award all the time, and Roddy Doyle, and all that, will you tell me that, eh?"

Fizzy Water

Fizzy water used to be very common till about 10 years ago but has been totally replaced by "sparkling" water.

The Feelgood Factor

The feelgood factor is not much talked about these days, as it was always being predicted but never arrived, rather like Norman Lamont's little green shoots. People are sometimes nostalgic for the days when the feelgood factor was being predicted, but not for the thing itself, a curious example of nostalgia for something that never existed.


Filofaxes were loose-leaf diaries which you could add to by buying new pages showing international air schedules, useful phone numbers in Bahrein, tube maps of Glasgow, etc. People even used to buy each other Filofax supplements as Christmas presents. What happened was predictable, though no one ever predicted it: namely, Filofaxes got heavier and heavier and people started being crushed to death by them, or falling over under their weight and having serious accidents. They were banned in several countries as a health hazard, and that, combined with the arrival of the personal organiser, was the writing on the wall.


Basics were something that John Major wanted to get back to. Whether he ever did was not vouchsafed to us, and if he liked what he saw, and whether they were any different from the Victorian values which Margaret Thatcher wanted to get back to, was similarly not disclosed. Experts now tend to think that basics never existed, rather like the feelgood factor.

Mid-term Blues

Mid-term blues was a legendary kind of music born of dissatisfaction among the mass of downtrodden British voters. They found that when they voted the Tory government in, they were landed with it for the foreseeable future, and voiced their heartfelt despair in such songs as "Spin Doctor at My Door", " "Gonna Vote Lib Dem in the Next Local Elections" and "One Lot's as Bad as Another". Mid-term blues seems to have faded in popularity, like world music and karaoke, being replaced by something called Britpop.

Manchester United strip

The management of Manchester United discovered several years ago that you could make a fortune by changing the pattern and colour of your playing strip every few weeks, and forcing admirers to pay out for a new shirt each time. Why football supporters should want to buy football shirts to wear, when they'll only freeze to death during games, is a mystery, but it seemed to work. However, the plan backfired and the players found themselves so confused by the change of playing strip that after a while they failed to recognise which players were the opposition and which on their own side, which explains their recent tendency to let in five or six goals in each game. The next playing strip for Man Utd is going to be in black, showing a gravestone with the names "Newcastle" and "Southampton" engraved on them.