"Why, for God's sake?" asks X. "Do they think we're complete fools?" He cuts across my explanation of the Trades Descriptions Act to complain about KettleMaster chips: "Hand-cooked, indeed! It's a bloody machine - read between the lines." I'm sure he has a point. As a fledgling barrister, he no doubt experienced the attentions of a PupilMaster, who may well have flung him across a blue paper napkin. These things are deeply rooted.
MrsVictorBartlettis another one. As president of the Euterpe Club, she is a peerless authority on snack presentation. "Young people of today," she says, spitting out her denture-compatible bubble gum, "think they can get away without so much as a lipstick."
We meet in Selfridge's Hall of Pulchritude, where I find her tottering about enjoying the attentions of the consultants. As an old bat, she cannot run fast enough to escape a barrage of unwanted beauty advice, and is soon rouged up to the nines and looking like Dirk Bogarde in the last throes of Death in Venice. We elbow our way into the Food Hall and hook an industrial-sized pack of Twiglets.
She tells me about her hotline to "a very nice young man at the local library". She had stood over him as he hacked into the Institute of Directors' database, fed "Twiglets" into one end and waited to see what galvanising information it disclosed. "Grey of original Twiglet packaging invests product with dullness", "In public trials, taste of Twiglets described by some respondents as `a bit Richard Gere'", and reams of stuff about exploiting the Japanese market with a Bonsai version.
"...Which is why presentation is of paramount importance." Mrs Bartlett produces a blue napkin and spreads it on the gentlemen's toiletries counter. Prising open the packet, she deftly flicks the things. The Twiglets have landed in a graceful curve across the counter. A little crowd of interested shoppers has gathered to learn: "The key lies in the wrist action." The Bartlett sleeve is pulled up an inch and the manoeuvre repeated for late-comers - a McEnroe-esque backhand with a touch of topspin.
It is exactly like the "serving suggestion" on the packet. Mrs B nods modestly. At her time of life, a little consultancy work ekes out a pension, she explains.Reuse content