For those (with real interests) not all together familiar with the The New York Observer, it is one of the City's weekly rags. In a city of 8 million residents, it has a relatively small circulation of 50,000 but this belies its influence, particularly in New York’s media, political and real estate circles. It is a newspaper for people who would read The New Yorker, if not for their weakness for sensationalism. Present readership excluded, of course.
With that aside, what got me stirred up was this week's edition of the "Simon Says" column entitled, "My Summer Summary. Dating Down, Balmy Brits." The column's author is media darling, Simon Doonan, the bestselling author of Confessions of a Window Dresser, creative director of Barneys New York, and regular writer of the "Simon Says" column. He is also pictured here.
Upon recently returning from a holiday by the Amalfi Coast, Simon had a stop-over in the UK and reports back in his column what he learnt. Namely for us: "that the Brits have all—with the notable exception of the footballers’ wives—morphed into a bunch of self-denying, ascetic flagellants who think they are to blame for everything and won’t put anything in their mouths unless its gluten-free and has been hand-crafted by depressed lesbians somewhere in the British countryside."
Forget the reports of debt fuelled, abstemious shopping; of soaring obesity rates attributable to genetically modified fry-ups; of night-time economies plagued by binge-drinking. And welcome yourself to Modern Britain, a land of carbon footprint citizenry abetted by guilt complexes worse than anything felt by Republicans who voted for Bush, and where WAGs are the estimable exception. And Simon doesn't stop there, he goes on to say "the earnestly multicultural Brits are wearing organic-cotton hair shirts, eating fair-trade gruel and blaming themselves for all the ills in the world, including the emergence of home-grown terrorists."
Let's put America, the land of trail mix and soya smoothies, governed by it's own home-grown terrorist, aside for a minute, shall we Mr. Simon? And so it was, I entered into a stammering, sputtering soliloquy over the pugnacious level journalists in silly season (akin to dogs in heat) will sink. That is, until I was reminded of the surging popularity of David Fotherington Carbon ( I mean Cameron); of the overtaking (literally) of London's streets by the hybrid Lexus 4x4s; of the teenage cat fights over natural clothes label, Made, in Topshop; and of The Guardian's annoying Ethical Living column, which posits various rites of consumer behaviour against their supposed eco turpitude. In other words, devoted column inches pandering to the chattering classes 'softer' worries.
So on deeper examination, could what "Simon Says" from his media pulpit across the pond actually have a grain (organic, or manufactured) of truth in it? Has the nation of proud, empire building, shopkeepers become the nation of remorse trodden, crunchy conservative, eco warriors? Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves, whilst I tuck into my plastic-wrapped Starbucks non-free range, chicken, microwaved panini and sip my mocha, vente latte from land-fill ready styrofoam. But you wouldn't judge me on that, or would you?
For those genuinely concerned over the genetically modified issue, or still worried about the whole mad cow thing:
Whole Foods, the company that owns Fresh & Wild, is set to open it's whopping 75,000-Square-Foot Kensington High Street flagship store (former site of Barkers) in early 2007. Their first ever in Europe. Whole Food Market stores are so popular in NYC that apartment rental ads have been known to state how many metres away they are from the nearest one. Check out www.wholefoodsmarket.com to stay informed.