YOUR NATION LOVES YOU

Today I received a text from a friend of mine who I went to the Edinburgh Fringe with last year. He informed me that he’s seeing a play on Wednesday (a promenade play, of all things) in London, and he asked whether I’d like to come along. The play, ‘Your Nation Loves You’, seems to be, judging from a quick peek at the website, shaping up to be something quite special indeed.

The play, from what I can gather, is about a government plot to kidnap a group of people, in the face of an impending terrorist threat, and to hold them in a bunker in the tunnels below Waterloo Station. I’d imagine this is so they can repopulate the country after said terrorist threat manifests itself. Details on the play are scarce. The play’s website (www.yournationlovesyou.com) is split into two sections. The first is a standard ‘press’ site, which doesn’t really tell you that much about the play. It’s mostly a lot of talk about psychology, and psychological themes. It mainly concerns the process of creating the play, more than the play itself. Nothing to write home about. However, the second part of the website presents you with a desktop of an employee of the fictitious ‘Department of Data Protection’, and lets you browse their e-mails, various character profiles, surveillance footage, and a couple of mocked-up news stories concerning the ‘government plot’ that’s currently afoot. It’s very exciting, to say the least.

The fantastic Belt Up Theatre introduced me to the wonderful world of immersive theatre at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and this absolutely reeks of immersion. My friend mentioned in his text only that it’s a promenade play, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens on Wednesday. It’s certainly worth taking a look at, if, like me, you’re a fan of government conspiracies, and the weaving, secretive narratives that are associated with such things.

The play runs from today until Friday at various intervals, in the Old Vic Tunnels, below Waterloo Station. Opinions to follow.


Mephe-what?

I sat down in front of my TV (a rare occurrence these days) and flicked to BBC News 24, to provide me with some entertainment while I ate my lunch. I caught a couple of stories; the first was about the MoD’s shameful attacks on Joanna Lumley and her campaign in support of the Gurkhas. The second story was about the latest ‘legal high’ craze mephedrone. I hadn’t really heard of mephedrone until a couple of weeks ago, where I saw it being advertised on Facebook as ‘plant food’. I did some digging, and figured it was another fad, and left it there.

Since then, mephedrone has boomed, thanks mainly to the coverage it’s receiving from major news outlets, such as through the BBC News report I watched today. The report not only provided an explanation of what the drug was, but included an interview with some yob from Brighton who claimed it gives you “double the hit” that you’d get from cocaine or ecstacy. It also included video footage of some websites which sell the stuff, with the URLs clearly visible, emblazoned at the top of the pages shown. Now, I’d like to think that the crack team of journalists that is responsible for the BBC News possess some modicum of intelligence, but from what I’ve seen today, I’m starting to doubt this. BBC News, what were you thinking?

You’ve single-handedly given the suppliers of mephedrone more (free) advertising than they could ever afford themselves. You’ve also glamourised the drug to unsuspecting children who may be watching a report such as this when they get in from school. You’ve also helpfully gone to the trouble of enlightening them on what mephedrone actually is, in case they’ve missed the media storm surrounding the drug. More than that, you’ve told people where they can buy it, which is just unacceptable. Shame on you.

It’s wrong to blame only the BBC for this, however. Google ‘mephedrone’ right now. Around half of the articles on the first page of results are news articles, with the other half being websites you can purchase from. Preposterous. Simply ridiculous. Well done, media. You’ve successfully escalated an underground ‘legal high’ fad into a nationwide pandemic.


Lush: A lesson in value

I’ve recently returned home to London for a round of familial birthdays, culminating with my mother’s birthday yesterday. It just so happened that the day before, I took my sister into town to see Avatar in 3D. While there, I decided to stop off at Covent Garden to peruse the shops and market stalls there, to see if I could find a last minute present suitable for mummy dearest. I circled Covent Garden a couple of times, before visiting Lush, as out of all of the shops there, it was by far the most inviting.

I’ve never ‘been to’ a Lush store before, at least never with the intention of buying anything. I’d heard from a fellow vegan that they stock vegan conditioner, which is elusive, to say the least, so I decided to pay them a visit on the off-chance that I’d also find something for my mum. I was right. It was certainly an experience, and it was a wonderful demonstration of how retailers can go about creating value to entice customers, and get them excited about shopping, which is something I think they do brilliantly.

As I’m sure many of us are aware, Lush is a smelly shop. As much of their wares aren’t packaged, their smells are free to waft in and around their shops. This is primarily what makes Lush more enticing than other retailers, as I say above. At this particular store, there was actually an exhaust vent below the window outside, which was blowing out fragrant, fruity, soapy-smelling air. I’m sure this turns a lot of heads, and certainly attracts many to investigate the source of these lovely smells. As a result, when you enter a Lush store, it’s more than likely you’ll be in a good mood, as you’ll be smelling what Lush want you to smell. It’s a veritable onslaught on your senses, which is something you don’t really see (or smell!) anywhere outside of department stores.

Once I was inside, I went about searching for this vegan conditioner I had in mind. When I found the section for haircare, I was approached by a bubbly lass who asked if I needed any help. I stress that she was bubbly. She was smiling, and seemed as if she was genuinely enjoying being at work, much like the other staff I saw. This is brilliant. A glum demeanour is infectious, and is a sure-fire way to put people off shopping. On the other hand, smiles are also infectious, and put people at ease. Combined with the incensed smells circulating the shop, this adds greatly to the ‘chill-out’ factor, and almost changes the motivation of each visit from a shopping trip, to an adventure. Together, I explored the various shampoos and conditioners with the sales assistant, who was rather enthusiastic for me to sample (smell) each individual product. More than this, she seemed to possess a great deal of product knowledge on all the products in-store, knowing instantly what shampoo to recommend for my thick, frizzy hair. It came about that this was because our assistant had a great many Lush products at home. I don’t know if Lush operate a policy of handing out samples to their staff, so they can get a feel of the products they’re selling, but it’s definitely a good idea. She also knew off-hand which of the products on display were vegan, which was a great relief, in saving me the trouble of scanning lists of ingredients. In the end, I settled on a shampoo ‘bar’ (which I’m still excited about) and a sample of conditioner, which was given to me for free.

After this, when asked if we would like help with anything else, my sister and I revealed our true purpose. As soon as it was discovered that my mum has a penchant for hand cream, we were whisked away, by the same assistant, to another part of the shop. She even got someone else to cover her ‘station’, so she could accompany us, which was lovely of her. We then went through the same routine of sampling, and smelling individual hand creams, which again we were ensured were vegan. On asking for a moisturising cream, our needs were also suitably catered for. I’m no good at shopping, as was made clear by my sister, who soon decided on a cream made in Gurugu, Ghana. We were soon on our way to the cash register. All in all, a streamlined, pleasant shopping experience.

The process of paying was in itself, also a pleasant experience, which might seem a little ironic. The bubbly, beaming girl at the till seemed to possess the expert product knowledge of her colleague, as while ringing up my purchases, she informed me that the sample of conditioner I was given was perhaps a little too thin for my hair. She suggested another conditioner I try out on my next visit.

Suffice to say, I left the shop with a smile. Ultimately, it was a very pleasant experience, and I’m sure to go back there in the future. The products are great (I’ve probably used the hand cream more than my mother) and the overall shopping experience was generally enthusing. On leaving, I commented to my sister that everyone working in the store was ‘very kind’, and she replied that it must be a lot of fun to work there. I suppose she’s right. It was apparent that it was a pleasant place in which to work, and I think this is essential if you want to get shoppers to enjoy shopping with you. It’s not just a shopping trip, it’s an experience as well, to boot. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I want to go back there to buy conditioner, or to be ‘nursed’ back into a good mood. That’s good marketing.


Here goes nothing.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated. I’ll give you that. It seems that my own tendency to write prolifically (when I get around to it) puts me off blogging altogether, which is a bit of a shame. I do enjoy it. It’s simply the case that persuading myself to sit down and write an essay totalling over a thousand words, in most cases, is somewhat off-putting. I’m hoping to remedy this, and am determined to start updating regularly once more, seeing as university is over for me, pretty much. I’ve got a presentation here, an exam there, and of course, my dissertation which I am to complete over the summer, but other than those things, that is it. It’s scary to think that I’m leaving the institution that has sheltered me for the past four years, and changed me as a person in so many ways, but I assume this is simply another part of ‘growing up’.

Well, here it goes.