THIS ISLAND LIFE MOST amusing news moment of last week? It has to be Patrick Birley’s response to inquiries about the beer his firm, Goddards, has produced with Nigel Farage’s smirking face on the bottle.
It’s just a jolly jape by UKIP to keep their Island candidate’s name in the public eye but you could almost hear Patrick’s lips purse to a dot as he put as much distance as possible between his firm and this harmless little prank.
"It was just business for us," he said, a trifle frostily.
"We would be very happy to produce beer for anybody and it in no way reflects our political views. We produce beer, that’s what we do."
It was an odd and rather unnecessary comment, because I don’t know of anyone who reads political literature and then, because they happen to disagree with the message, immediately blames the printer. Be that as it may, the Ukippers may have hit upon a simple marketing ploy which could once have benefited others in public life.
Take James Callaghan, for example. I interviewed him once and emerged from our encounter entirely mystified as to how and why he had acquired the nickname 'Sunny Jim’.
He was approachable enough but that particular soubriquet always gave the impression of a congenial fellow continually trying to suppress a chuckle as a smile played across his lips.
This was certainly not the case but the image had been firmly established in the public psyche and cried out for a publicity campaign based on it, with delegates sporting smiley lapel badges of their leader at the last party conference as Labour entered its doomed confrontation with Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
And what about the lady herself? Why did no-one ever think to produce a brand of Maggie handbags shaped like baseball bats and bearing the legend: 'To be used only in the event of coming face to face with an EU commissioner.’
John Major was always depicted as a man who tucked his shirt inside his underpants. Labour may well have come up with some suitable nether garments embroidered with 'Y fronts — why vote for him?’ but they were so certain of success in 1997 such capers were considered unnecessary.
The Conservatives were in such a state of disarray after that election, they allowed Tony Blair to get away with murder (some might say literally) with his spurious reasons for supporting the invasion of Iraq. As Blair’s slimy, duplicitous reputation grew, it cried out for a spoof biography with a title using George Burns’ famous observation: 'Sincerity? If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.’
Remember Gordon Brown and his frequent calls for prudence? Why did the Tories not come forward with a Prudence doll which, when pressed, would say: 'Help! My daddy is about to abandon me!’
Island politicians should also consider their own form of branding, especially the members of the controlling group of 'independents’ currently dictating policy in County Hall.
They could have their faces on specially produced bottles of Martini — with a label stating: 'We will join any political group, any time, any place, anywhere.’
Some councillors might also like to consider individually-branded drinks to suit their image, including Paul Fuller (stout), Ian Stephens (mild), Chris Whitehouse (bitter) and Lora Peacey-Wilcox (whine).
Even David Pugh might appreciate a personalised bottle of anise herbal liqueur, in the hope absinthe might make the heart grow fonder.
Gustatory auditory synaesthesia leaves a strange taste in the mouth
DON'T avert your gaze when I tell you we need to discuss gustatory auditory synaesthesia. Believe me, it’s a far more interesting subject than we have any right to expect with a name like that.
I read recently that more than two million people suffer from this cross-sensory neurological condition, which means the sufferers can literally taste words.
That is to say, they associate many words with a taste and once the connection is made, it never changes.
One synaesthete (for that is what these unfortunate people are called) says his palate has been bombarded with tastes for as long as he can remember as soon as he hears certain words.
History lessons were a special pleasure, because the names of every monarch and consort came with a distinctive taste. Anne Boleyn, for example, was always pear drops.
Another chap has a taste for every station on the London Underground and they range from Lincoln biscuits to spam fritters, from pea and ham soup to burnt rubber.
I am fascinated to learn others suffer from a condition with which I have been afflicted these many years.
For example, I cannot hear La Hofton’s name mentioned without
my mouth being suffused with the flavour of Parma violets, while other words guaranteed to tantalise my tongue and produce instinctive tastes are independent (waffles) and Wightlink (crackers).