As a man quite keen to distance himself from his own and anyone else’s emotions whenever possible, I’m not prone to tears. I might feel like wailing like a Muslim staring at a particularly egregious wall in Jerusalem at various points each day, but I’ve chosen a path of reason. Emotions are to rational thought as I hope these pellets will be to the bastard slugs that have taken to crawling through my flat every night.
Incidentally, it may be Jews who wail at the wall, but I’m yet to meet the person whose eyebrows don’t rise at the sight of the words ‘wailing like a Jew’, and in any case I don’t care.
Like all sane men, I will shed a happy tear at the end of The Shawshank Redemption. I also know of one song, and only one, that cuts me up just about every time I hear it, though I’ll never tell anyone what that song is lest they play it at me to render me useless. Other than that, though, very little provokes water works, unless I’m legless and have just realised once again how pointless I really am.
I was in the cinema yesterday to watch the remarkably over-rated Interstellar, but before we got to the point where Anne Hathaway starts shitting out words about how ‘love is the only thing stronger than gravity’ or whatever the hell she was on about, we had the trailers, and before that the adverts, including the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon monstrosity, but also including the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert, which up until then I’d not seen.
The First World War, just about anything to do with it, is the only other thing that has the power to make me weep like a girlfriend six months into a relationship with a man she now realises is not everything she once dreamed of, after he accidentally farted in the shower while she was shaving her legs nearby. Everything about that conflict is dreadful, and provokes anger and sorrow in me unlike anything else. Just thinking about the lines of men on both sides, pushed to their deaths by Melchett-style characters who never had to stare down a barrel themselves unless it was filled with brandy, makes my wish to avoid emotion where possibly crumble to dust.
That a supermarket has decided to use the Christmas truce of 1914 as the basis of an advert to sell Yule Logs comes as no surprise to me. That it’s Sainsbury’s, the supermarket that strikes me as the most decent available to those of us unable to afford Waitrose Tangy & Aromatic Lemon & Garlic Couscous, with two ampersands no less, is a bit more of a shock.
I get the point, with the wide-eyed Tommy and the shared chocolate bar, a man making his own little bit of peace with one German soldier. And if you’re going to do something like this, it’s as well to be on an important anniversary of the actual truce. But, my dear Lord Sainsbury, have you ever heard the expression ‘too soon’? Do you think, in this case, it may be a little too soon to use the horrific slaughter of millions of men in a sickening style of warfare to sell Taste the Difference Extra Thick Brandy Cream With Remy Martin at £2.65 a throw?
It’s too soon, Lord Sainsbury, it’s too fucking soon, because there will never be enough time passed between the First World War and now to justify using it to sell your Christmas shite to a public that’s going to buy it anyway. Nobody, not one single person, will decide to go into Sainsbury’s now because of the advert you’ve produced; nobody will find themselves thinking “I was going to pop into Morrison’s, because it’s near, but that Sainsbury’s advert has given me real food for thought. Their non-cynical use of surprisingly clean and chipper-looking Western Front troops to sell Sainsbury’s Mull Of Kintyre Extra Mature Cheddar has given me an overwhelming desire to drive the extra four miles to the nearest burnt orange supermarket to hand over more money than I can afford, because buying cheaper food and giving the savings to the British Legion just doesn’t seem like Christmas any more.”
It will always be too soon to use the First World War to further commercial gains in any way. Use the Second World War all you must, with the more obvious good versus evil and a set of heroes and villains who lend themselves particularly well to caricature. Save yourself some advertising spend by making next year’s ad from that bloody Downfall clip of Hitler raging, “How the hell have we let them be cheaper than us for a pack of baubles? How have we let their turkeys be so much more succulent than ours this year? Nein! Nein nein nein!”
Just leave the First World War alone. They weren’t romantic heroes, they were young men pushed unwillingly to their deaths at a rate of hundreds every minute. Those who survived refused to discuss it for very obvious reasons, not wishing to relive the utter horror of trench warfare for a single minute of their lives. And though they’ve all gone too now, it’s no excuse to start using them and their butchered mates to shift a few Luxury Fruit & Nut Christmas Puddings, 450g, serves 4.