Sunday, February 3, 2008

What’s got a bottom at the top?

In his bathroom, I see, Mr Roland keeps Harpic Fresh and Easy-Off Bang by the shower. He must get very dirty at the office. Our conjugal electric toothbrush is also lurking there, I discover, so the nice grey one Jet Airline kindly supplied, to match my free pyjamas, can go into hibernation. Piqued, I instigate a forensic sweep, which reveals that he’s shamelessly annexed my emergency shampoo, too. I can’t help but feel that Perfect Curls is hopelessly aspirational in his case, but I’m on shaky ground for criticism. I’m the adman’s dream, happy to gobble my way through forty-six packets of Hall’s Soothers, in the fond belief that some strange man’s going to come and kiss my neck. No luck so far. So, I’m putting all my trust in Fa, the Indian deodorant I buy at D-Mart, which promises you it will “lead you into a new exciting world and spread a sense of paradise.” I’m aware that it’s a big ask for a small pink aerosol, but I spray in hope.
Advertising here often plays on the borrowed sophistication of the English language. We find chocolate chip cookies, called “Hide and Seek” – obviously the economy version - and condoms branded “Good Knight” – this could be a typo, of course, therefore unwittingly witty, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. This is jolly kind of me, because I’m actually scrutinising a pack in my hand, before I realise that “safe moments together” doesn’t refer to family holidays, as per picture on pack, so that I’m not in fact holding a disposable camera, as I imagined. Don’t run away with the idea that shopping‘s easy, in a foreign field...
We smile at the tiny savoury snacks, labelled “cheeslings,” and laugh at the range of biscuits with “Eet Sum Mor” emblazoned across each packet, like D H Lawrence doing his Nottinghamshire accent. As for the brand of sauces and spices known as “Git’s” – it’s just a Chris Tarrant moment, waiting to happen.
Enjoy a High Quality Holistic Coffee Experience!” invites the poster on the wall at Coffee World, in the Shopper’s Stop mall. I’m just pondering what this might include, when my coffee arrives. I’ve had latte perhaps twice, in all my long-legged life. Inexplicably, we land in Mumbai, on a determined quest for authenticity, and this least Indian of drinks becomes something of a craving. Sadly I’m left-handed, so I turn the cup round to drink, and the heart, lovingly piped in the frothing milk on the top, becomes a little bottom. Still cute, though.
Something missing in your coffee?” asks another poster. (Not in mine, for sure!) - “If it’s a smile,” it goes on, “your coffee is free!” Very kind, but a safe bet. A fortnight since our arrival, and I’ve yet to see a single angry person. Or, not even angry, just mildly vexed. At home, three minutes in Sainsbury’s car-park, or two in the average British classroom, and the air would be crackling with invective. (Which came first, Ms Catherine Are-You-Calling-My-Dad-A-Pikey Tate, or the British Schoolgirl, standard specimen?) Or maybe I’m just spreading a sense of paradise wherever I go, thanks to Fa?