Sunday, 20 November 2011

Season's greetings from our sponsor

A couple of weeks ago, a friend from Marseille wrote to complain about an initiative to include the name of a sponsor in that of the City’s historic stadium, the Vélodrome

‘Will it become the ‘Vélodrome Nutella’?’ he asks. And goes on to wonder whether Bernard Delanoë, mayor of Paris, isn’t missing a trick. ‘Why not turn the Champs Elysées,’ he suggests, ‘into the Champs L’Oréal  because we deserve it?’

Funnily, not more than a couple of hours after reading his remarks, I discovered that St James’s Park, as iconic in Newcastle as the Vélodrome is in Marseille, was being rebaptised the Sports Direct St James’s Park stadium. It seems that there’s a bit of trend starting here.

My friend sees cynicism in all this, quoting Oscar Wilde’s view that a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. 

Well, maybe. On the other hand, isn’t this just a matter of turning some grand old monuments into tributes to business? And doesn’t business perhaps deserve them? After all, isnt it to some our greatest businesses, especially in financial services, that we owe today’s climate of economic stability and widespread prosperity?

On the other hand, I was a little disturbed by a sight that greeted me as I came through St Pancras International station the other day. The main hall now houses a massive Christmas tree made of Lego bits.

Lego gets the tone right
At first sight, I was amused by it – it’s striking and funny at the same time. But then I thought again. 

Christmas is the second most important feast of the Christian year after Easter (yes, though you wouldn’t know it from the scale of the celebrations, the death and resurrection trump, in liturgical terms, the birth. Youve got to admit that births more common). This is a time of year devoted, by Christians at least, to giving thanks for the birth of the Lord and Redeemer of all mankind. Turning it into an opportunity for advertising by Lego, however charming, might seem inappropriate.

After all, what would it say about our moral qualities in the West if Christmas became just another massive binge of commercialism?

Postscript with no relevance to the above: we’ve just started watching the second series of The Killing. It’s proving as gripping and powerful as the first (I’m talking about the original Danish version – I don’t know about the American remake which I haven’t watched). 

What’s extraordinary is that Series 2 manages to be strikingly fresh in feeling, even though the formula is exactly the same: a main story that is a classic thriller based around murder (but with an extraordinary central character in the detective, Sarah Lund), a family struggling with events risking to tear it apart, and a reasonably likeable political figure having to cope with a crisis of fearful complexity without being able to place full trust in his staff.

Well worth watching. 

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