In social cyber space, a thespian friend of mine and supporter of local shops fell out with another Twit(erer) over Iceland. How anyone can actually feel much emotion over a such a cold and anonymous supermarket is beyond me, but I when I questioned this strange allegiance, I was rather forcefully assured that supporting local shops is an affectation that only the middle class can afford. The rest of us, it seems may have lofty ideals, but still end up at the checkout of our neighbourhood Tesco or Lidl.
A local chap I know claims there is still a high street worth visiting, and it’s only half an hour away from where I live. But surely it must be in a museum, because I haven’t seen a proper one since I was a little girl.
High streets all look the same to me. Every sign is supposed to be reassuringly recognizable. There is always a Starbucks, and even Hampstead High Street gave way to a MacDonald’s, albeit behind a more tasteful façade than their usual garish style. We choose Boots or Superdrug over independent pharmacies, unless of course, it happens to be the wonderfully well stocked John, Bell and Croyden of Wigmore Street.
Claire’s Accessories is where you go if you are on drugs, or looking for a birthday present for a five to eleven year old girl – if there is any other reason, please let me know.
Following our obsession with TV home makeover shows, the sort of intimidating hardware stores immortalized by the legendary two Ronnies with their Four Candles sketch have given way to B&Q or Homebase, altogether far easier to navigate. Customers are relieved the offering is exactly the same in every store.
A professional speaker friend of mine was turned down for a gig. The fact is they loved her proposal, topic and video, and they really wanted her speak in future, but she was informed that the MD wanted to play it safe, and use the same speaker as last year.
This is Fish Finger Mentality.
You see, there they are, uniform, exactly the same, and suspended in the deep freeze. It is where we all turn when we can no longer think of anything else. Each one is the same weight, the same size, the same mashed up, bread-crumbed blandness. But at least you know what you are getting. No fish finger could be described as slightly more tasty, more unusually shaped, different textured. And that is entirely the point. You know where you are with a fish finger. You won’t get caught out. It will cook for exactly the same amount of time, and taste just as it did last week. Or last month. Or last year. Or if my memory serves, thirty years ago, which was when I think I last had the misfortune to eat one.
Lenny Henry merrily assures us that every single bed at a Premier Inn is exactly the same. “A Great Night’s Sleep Guaranteed.” No surprises then. I still remember, a time before children, steeling away for a weekend in Bath. My post-coital lover was snoring; oblivious to my discomfort. Near to tears and frustrated in more ways than I can say, the divan tried to swallow me whole, enveloping and drawing me in like quicksand, and causing me motion sickness every time I attempted to turn over. It wasn’t a bed; it was a flipping blancmange.
We forsake the independent coffee shop for Costa, because we know exactly how we want to take our latte. And whether we are on a high street in Edinburgh, or flagging for want of caffeine on the M1, or meeting chums in Falmouth, that latte will absolutely not deviate. Why, the local delicatessen may not serve it the way we want it, we may regret investing time and money in a disappointing cup, and that is a chance we no longer want to take.
In these times of austerity, Fish Finger Mentality pervades all decision making, mostly when it comes down to consumables. It can also be applied elsewhere, but baby, that’s a whole nuther essay…
Fish Finger Mentality means assurance. It means no surprises. It removes disappointment, and takes away chance. I suppose I can see the point, however call me wild and irresponsible, I’d rather roll the dice take a chance. If there is indeed polarity in everything, I believe for every insomnia inducing blancmange, there will always be a surprisingly sublime bed waiting somewhere, and that is what makes life interesting and exciting; not average and guaranteed. The idea of surprise and serendipity and what if – should be what keeps us engaged. I believe there is bound to be a perfect coffee shop serving subtly orange scented cantuccini made by a dedicated artisan to accompany the perfect espresso. There will be a specialist hardware merchant giving experienced advice worth a couple of quid more for that tin of paint, especially if he knows the exact litreage required, and wastes not one drop. And there may just be a speaker who delivers a talk that causes you to sit up and listen, and that very talk might just change your life.
Y’see? It’s not about Fish Fingers. It’s much more about Catch of the Day.