Posted by Ian
A question. What links brie, children’s wellington boots, non-designer sunglasses and outdoor plant pots?
Answer: they’re all items which have just been removed from the official UK Shopping Basket: a list drawn up each year by the Office of National Statistics intended to be a snapshot of the country’s most popular and ubiquitous goods and services.
Taking their place are digital radios, courgettes, fizzy drinks from vending machines and credit card charges. Vegetable oil and Brussels sprouts have also been banished (no loss there), to be replaced with olive oil and electric fans. Satellite navigation systems, small flat-panel TVs and mobile ringtones, meanwhile, have edged out erstwhile stalwarts such as video recorders, portable TVs and ghetto blasters.
The shopping basket is a notional one: it contains a massive 650 items. And it’s the change in prices of those 650 items which is used to determine inflation (which has just risen from 2.7% to 2.8%).
The idea of compiling a truly representative sample of the entire nation’s shopping habits is perhaps a little fanciful, but the concept is an endearing one. After all, surely it’s the same kind of hypothetical chicanery which lay behind that most iconic of cultural snapshots, the Blue Peter Time Capsule.
Originally buried in June 1971, the Capsule was triumphantly dug up in January 2000 whereupon its contents were revealed to have almost entirely decomposed. You’d have thought the likes of Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and John Noakes would’ve had the foresight to wrap the contents, including an edition of Radio Times, bits of audio tape, a Blue Peter book and a set of decimal coins, inside a plastic bag or something.
No matter: the thought was a brilliant one, and in the spirit of both the Office of National Statistics and the Blue Peter team, here are those items I feel would be suitable inclusions in a 2007 Time Capsule:
– an obscure brand of coffee in a ridiculously oversized plastic cup;
– a carbon footprint calculator;
– an edition of the Daily Express with a front page headline screaming hysterically about Princess Diana (any one of the 127 issues – and counting – would do);
– a superfluous piece of packaging, perhaps one that had previously needlessly encased a vegetable;
– a tape recording of Sir Alan Sugar shouting "you’re fired!"
– an iPod with speakers turned up way too loud;
– a free newspaper, the kind you find clogging up the pavements and gutters of most UK cities and which have replaced books, magazines and proper newspapers as the default choice of reading for commuters;
– 50,000 missing premium line phone votes
– a bandwagon recently jumped on by David Cameron, ideally one to do with the environment;
– a pair of shoes with wheels in the bottom, as worn by thoughtless eight-year-olds in busy shopping precincts;
– a court summons for Pete Doherty.
Any other suggestions?