Gerry Farrell: The misshape of things to come

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I was invited by CreativeMornings to give a breakfast lecture at Summerhall last month. The theme was “Ugly”.

For a laugh, the audience was asked to bring along an ugly fruit or vegetable with a prize for the best one. On the day, nobody brought anything. Supermarkets just don’t sell ugly fruit and vegetables. That’s because none of us want to buy knobbly spuds, misshapen mangoes or rude radishes any more. Our obsession with perfection means the world throws away 300 million tons of perfectly edible fruit and veg every year.

Here in Edinburgh we’re doing a good job of minimising food waste. We’re halving the size of wheelie bins for household waste and this has put up recycling rates in the city by 85 per cent. Over in the States, the city of Seattle has just gone a step further. At the start of this year they banned food waste completely. Throw any food or food waste in the trash and you’re liable for a fine. Everything has to be composted or recycled.

High fives and back-slapping all round then, eh? Well no, what about all those 300 million tons of hilariously warty, twisted, deformed fruit and veg that get thrown away because the supermarkets pander to our need for perfectly-formed food?

One French supermarket chain, Intermarche, the 3rd biggest in France, decided to force their customers to think differently. They bought all the misshapen fruit and veg their growers normally throw away. They created entire aisles in their hypermarkets dedicated to these “Inglorious Fruit And Veg”. Every ugly fruit or vegetable they stocked was celebrated in its own advertising campaign: “A Grotesque Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away As Well”; “The Ridiculous Potato, Elected Miss Mashed Potato 2014”; “The Hideous Orange Makes Beautiful Juice”. But the killer headline, the one that really turned people’s heads was the poster that showed five grotesquely deformed different fruit and veg in a colourful heap, with the line: “Eat Five A Day. They’re Just As Healthy But 30% Cheaper.”

As well as slashing the price, Intermarche brought out a special range of soups and fresh fruit juices to prove that ugly fruits and veggies taste just as good as beautiful ones. Their bravery was rewarded. They sold out. The average sale per store in the first two days of the campaign was 1.2 tons! 25 per cent more people came into their stores to shop. After just one month, over 13 million people in France had heard about the idea on social networks. And on the nation’s news channels, TV presenters started putting pressure on all the other French supermarkets, saying they should do the same.

It takes just a little bit of visionary creative thinking to get a whole lot of people to consider changing their behaviour. Nobody in Todmordon in the North of England would dream of wasting fruit or veg. That’s because they came up with a scheme called “Incredible Edible” which aims to make their town self-sufficient in fruit and veg by 2018. In every available plot, tub or patch of earth, the townsfolk have planted food. You can help yourself to the potatoes growing in plots outside the local police station and the crispy lettuces flourishing in tubs outside canalside pubs. There are carrots in the car parks and radishes on the roundabouts.

Here at Farrell Towers, we don’t have a garden, just a balcony, but two years ago we decided to buy as many different varieties of 
tomato as we could find and keep the seeds. When our wee babies started growing, we didn’t know what colour or shape they’d be and we didn’t care. If you grow food yourself, you don’t give a monkey’s if it has a bump or a kink. You eat everything because you put a little love into growing it in the first place.

The name’s Bond..Harriet Bond. So behave!

Edinburgh bookworms will all be familiar with Precious Ramotswe the Botswana-born, “traditionally-built” heroine of Alexander McCall Smith’s most famous series of novels.

When she leaves her violent husband she is struggling to survive life on her lonesome until she starts the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency and turns into a tower of strength for those who come to her and ask for help over a cup of redbush tea. There’s a certain logic about the notion that a woman might make a better private detective than a man (although Sherlock Holmes may be spinning on his plinth in Picardy Place as I write this). Women are more intuitive, more perceptive and dare I say it, plain nosier than men.

This might explain the success of Harriet Bond, the real UK No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Instead of a man with a golden gun, Harriet Bond’s logo is a silhouette of a long-haired girl in a pencil skirt and stilettos, posing with a notebook. Their slogan is “Don’t let fear without facts ruin your relationship.”

That gives you a flavour of the kind of cases in which they specialise. These women, eight of them altogether, aren’t solving murders; their bread-and-butter work involves philandering partners.

And despite the recession, business couldn’t be better. A quarter of divorces in the UK are blamed on adultery and in a survey by relationship counseling service Relate, 34 per cent of women admitted cheating on their partner compared with 32 per cent of men.

Men are not nearly as good at hiding their infidelity as women. Suddenly they begin to pay greater attention to their appearance, they work later and they become very protective of their mobile phones.

Carrie Austin, who runs Harriet Bond, points out that having suspicions about your partner cheating on you is incredibly stressful and the cheated party deserves to know the truth rather than the whole tortuous deception carrying on for years behind your back.

Harriet Bond specialsze in pre-nuptial surveillance too, helping you be sure that the person you’re about to marry can be trusted not just with your emotions but with your hard-earned assets.

They can easily set up GPS vehicle tracking, giving you a comprehensive report of a vehicle’s movements 24 hours a day. You can monitor this from the comfort of your home. If your partner’s still protesting his or her innocence and you’ve a few hundred extra quid to spare, they will set up a lie-detector test with a state-of-the-art polygraph machine, like the ones you see in the movies.

It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it. If you fancy it as a career, Harriet Bond run their own academy for female private investigators. You can do a five-day Level 3 Advanced Award in Covert Urban Surveillance. Or if you prefer mud and wild animals, a five-day Advanced Award in Covert Rural Surveillance, including hide construction skills, camouflage and concealment strategies.

No fries on this one

I nearly crashed the car in Duke Street the other day. A new chippie is opening up. Its logo is a worried-looking little orange-and-white-striped clownfish being tossed in a pan of hot oil and the name above

the door is ‘Frying Nemo’. Only in Leith, eh.