“New year, new possibilities”

04 January 2019, 06:42 am
Fine Food by Charles Campion

In 2018, shopping as a pastime stumbled down a steep step and somewhere a hard-pressed hack staring at a screen full of emails had a lightbulb moment as he (or she) coined the phrase “the death of the high street”

Such is our love of disasters this particular bit of gloom-mongering hit home. Several large department stores collapsed; several more closed branches; while some just closed. The nature of shopping has changed, all hail to the internet. The food and drink offer in most of the huge high street stores is a pretty glum affair and now might be the time for smaller independent shops to consider waging war on the high street giants. In practice this may end up as choosing between tasselled cushion covers and a piece of carefully matured vintage Cheddar.

Any half way decent shopper will tell you that soft furnishings just don’t have the same mouth appeal. Various other shopping cultures have their own rules and rituals that swing into place in January. Chinese shop keepers are said to start a new accounts book on New Year’s day and then try to do a grand deal with the first customer of the year.

Unfortunately, crafty day-one shoppers have spotted this stratagem and go on to secure their role as the year’s first customer. Then they negotiate hard in the knowledge that for a propitious start to the year the shopkeeper wants to make that first sale. Retail has seldom been so challenging and the internet so hard to second guess.

New Year resolutions demand more resolve than ever before, and a steady stream of gaffes shows that we ignore social media at our peril. It doesn’t matter how niche a cause may be, its online footprint can reach out to the world at the touch of a button – as various intemperate writers have found out to their cost during the past year.

In this ethical, ongoing, David and Goliath contest the honours go to the small, but trenchant, pressure groups purely because they know how to wring every drip of traction from social media. One person’s joke is another’s bitter insult, and the only sensible attitude is dear Nanny’s advice: “if you cannot say anything nice don’t say anything at all”.

2018 will also be remembered for the great sausage scandal. An academic in one of our fine Universities proposed a health tax on sausages and processed meat. The argument was that we would all be healthier if we stopped eating sausages and that the consequential health benefits would save the NHS a heap of money. The media pointed to the sugar tax and the alcohol tax, both of which seem to slip into place with minimal fuss. But surely everyone would agree that a sausage tax is a tax on joy? There is some sense in loading tax onto bad sausages – those over-processed, pallid pink, squishy bangers could be pushed to the side to make way for plump, meaty, porky, well-sizzled Snorkas. (Snorkas is naval slang for a sausage – a favourite delicacy with the senior service).

Take heed, the foolish sausage tax might just threaten our national security. It makes you wonder what is President Trump’s view upon the role of sausages in Nato. We eagerly await a fake news posting by way of clarification.

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