Monday, 21 February 2011

Buttering up the imperialists

Here, glimpsed at Oxford Circus station on the London Underground, is a contribution to what is becoming a veritable series on outstanding advertising.

A breakfast for an all-British hero?
The poster’s dominated by a picture of a classic British breakfast. Golden yolk is beginning to flow from a soft-boiled egg while in the foreground are those strips of toast that we call ‘soldiers’ and which are certainly best when buttered. Below the picture, a small photo of a pack of Lurpak acts as signature.

And the strapline? ‘Empires were never built on Muesli bars’.

Brilliant. Doesn’t it just underline the point I was making the other day about nostalgia for the past glories of this country?

It also says so much about how we should be bringing up our children. After all, breakfast is a key meal. It’s the time to set the tone for the entire day, when we can frame principles for our families as part of the effort we owe to society to guide and mould the development of the next generation.

Lurpak is clear about what we want from that generation. Or at least from the boys. Presumably the girls should just concentrate on learning to serve up this kind of breakfast to their menfolk, with the accent firmly on ‘men’.

We want the lads to recreate that breed of Brits who weren’t afraid to go out into the world with its uncouth and inferior races and exact the proper level of respect from them, using whatever degree of force is necessary. Actually, it doesn’t really have to be necessary. Force, necessary or not, has a way of instilling the right degree of awe: you know what they say, spare the rod and spoil the child.

Good of Lurpak, which is Danish, to bathe me in such a warm glow of sentiment over British imperialism.

But stop right there! Let’s focus on a detail of the picture. What’s that on the tub of butter?

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
And you keep a sharper eye on the calories, too

Does it really say ‘lighter’?

Now we may have mixed, or even completely unmixed, feelings about that special strain of British hero who set out each day with pith helmet on head and firearm in hand, reinforced by a good breakfast, to wreak Pax Britannica on good old Johnny native. But I have to say that my image of the warrior hero of those legendary times is difficult to reconcile with the thought that while he was doing his bit for God and Empire, he was also counting calories.

I think I might pop out for a muesli bar.


Tom Miles said...

And muesli is Swiss. Neutral. Not even a proper nationality. Self-contained, smug, free of expansionist hubris. Denmark, of course, is simply a northern province of the Fatherland, so they know a thing or two about imperial ambition.

I saw the poster for the first time and thought, "So, if butter represents tyranny (exploitation, religious mania, gunboat diplomacy) what does that make margarine (a less pleasant alternative to butter)?

David Beeson said...

Doesn't margarine spend all its time trying to be taken for butter? Makes it a bit like Italian imperialism, just as nasty but difficult to take seriously, unless you happen to be an unfortunate Eritrean, Ethiopian or Libyan.

Awoogamuffin said...

"Presumably the girls should just concentrate on learning to serve up this kind of breakfast to their menfolk"

A service which apparently Sarah Brown was expected to perform for her husband but failed, and the couple have now been invoiced for 200 of the ex-prime minister's meals!

David Beeson said...

Yes, the Sarah Brown's story is full of wonderful little insights, isn't it? I particularly liked her failed attempt to order groceries on line - when she gave the address as '10 Downing Street' her order was rejected as a hoax.