Local hero: One man's stand against (full-size) Snickers


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The Independent Online

While online audiences and digital revenues are, in some cases, growing, it’s fair to say that the past decade or so has not been kind to local newspapers. In the past month alone readers have seen the closures (sorry, the move to online only) of The Wokingham Times and the Reading Post, to name just two.

So it was comforting last week to see one local hero finally receiving some wider love. Step forward Graham Carter of the Swindon Advertiser, whose latest column, “Snickerless for 25 years”, was widely shared on social media.

Carter, Swindon’s “voice of age and experience”, writes: “This year marked a milestone in my life: 25 years since I began my boycott of Snickers, after they changed the name from Marathon.

“The Snickers outrage,” he continues, was “the thin edge of the wedge – giving a nonsense name to a bar of chocolate that tells you nothing about the product.”

Clearly, this issue needs wider exposure, so I ask Carter what the name Marathon had meant to him. “I know [it] isn’t a suitable name for a chocolate bar either,” he admits, “but it does conjure up the idea that it will help you run a marathon, and at least it’s a real word.”

Has he really not touched one in 25 years? “No ,” he insists. “Not a single Snickers.” Not one, I press on in Paxman mode. “OK,” he cracks. “The little ones that come in Celebrations. And I only eat them at Christmas.”

Got him. People of Swindon, don’t believe everything you read.

The drivel war

More hold-the-front-page news. The excellent website Polifiller.com has just been updated. For those unfamiliar, Polifiller is an “online tool designed to cut the drivel out of political speeches”. Polifiller exists because, in its own words, “The next election in the UK will be unlike any other. There will be more parties, more promises and more cynicism than ever before. What people want is truth, devoid of cliché and patronising phrases.”

To that end, Polifiller allows you to copy and paste in politicians’ speeches, and then removes them of filler or words that make listeners switch off. Here are some of the latest additions to the its database: “To you I say/To him I say/To her I say.”; “Up and down the country”; “Difficult choices”; “People who work hard and do the right thing”; “Metropolitan elite”. Bingo, anyone?

Wash this space

With that film opening on Friday, it has been difficult to avoid the (t)horny subject of S&M of late. Daytime TV’s This Morning shocked viewers with its “Bondage for beginners” lesson last week, while the online mob was quick to ridicule a new promotion for concentrated washing liquid, Flirty Shades of Surf.

Because doing the laundry has that effect on all of us, right? Oh dear. Still at least fans of E L James’s novel will no doubt be looking forward to the backlash. 

The book of love

Another film causing mirth online last week was the new Jennifer Lopez vehicle The Boy Next Door, not least because, in it, the titular character buys J-Lo a “first edition” copy of Homer’s Iliad – believed to have appeared in scroll form around the 8th century BC – for $1 at a garage sale.

Cue holier than thou columns bemoaning the dumbing down of the public and “stupid America”. Or, as Homer might have said: “Doh!”.

When Woo met Lou

If Latitude festival’s inaugural late-night performance in the woods last year is anything to go by, expect magic and mayhem when Jonny Woo brings his, ahem, interpretation of Lou Reed’s classic Transformer album to life in east London on 19 February (see richmix.org.uk for details).

Woo, for the uninitiated, is a “drag artist” and “the figurehead of London’s alternative scene”, but his explosive new show, TRANS(former), feels like the culmination of a lifetime of walking on the wild side.

It was 1991 when Jonathan Wooster headed to New York to become a dancer and came back a “different person”. He tells me: “It was meeting those characters, many of whom had been associated with the Warhol scene, that enabled me to find myself.”

Since coming back, Woo has dedicated himself to bringing that downtown energy to London. Has he succeeded?

“Well,” he says, “the level of development we are seeing now in London makes it hard for culture to flourish.” Surely, I say, that’s the same in New York. “No,” he says. “They have regeneration while we have redevelopment. I mean, they’ve just built luxury flats at the top of Brick Lane and called the building Avant Garde Tower.” 

No rhyme or reason

Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

Pressed by the ‘Newsnight’ reporter,

The shadow Chancellor did falter,

Cos the honourable member,

Just couldn’t remember,

The name of his business supporter.