Thursday, January 13, 2005


In the mornings as I'm getting ready for work I listen to Heritage FM, a strange little community radio station based in the hills on the outskirts of the city. Their playlist is completely random - they skip from Boney M to Regurgitator to Elvis to Bread, one after the other, without commentary. It's like they have a roomful of CD stackers that they set to "shuffle" sometime around 1997 and nobody's interfered with it since.

But there's one thing about Heritage that runs fingernails down the blackboard of my equanimity. It's an ad. Specifically, an ad for the Gosnells Railway Markets*.

For a start, the woman doing the ad has a remarkably annoying voice. It sounds as if her voice tried to escape her throat and make a run for it, but got jammed somewhere in the lower reaches of her nose and can't get out. "Make shopping a pleasure, and experience the atmosphere," she enthuses, as if this lower-middle-class outer-suburban market were a cross between the Rive Gauche in Geneva and Harrod's in London. From there it just gets worse.

But it's two specific phrases that really get my goat and then do unnatural things to him.

"Visit the exciting range of specialty shops," she says. According to her, the range of shops at this place will actually cause your pulse to quicken, and a delicious frisson of anticipation to ripple across your skin. Entering the markets will be like standing on a bridge with bungee cables looped around your ankles, or driving too fast around hairpin bends, or realising that a beautiful woman is making eyes at you from across a crowded room. Apparently.

Damn it, these shops are NOT 'exciting'! 'Interesting' is probably still making too much of it. There'll be a shop selling stinky candles, another selling wood-turned crap, and another selling resin dolphins and plaques with teddy bears holding their arms apart and exclaiming "I wuv you THIS much!". There will also be shops selling counterfeit T-shirts, cheap DVDs that nobody wants, and really, really bad art by ladies with too much time on their hands. The only thing likely to give you a buzz is finding cherries at $5.99 a kilo at the fruit and vegetable stands.

And "You can have a fantastic meal in the food hall," she says. The cuisine will be so exquisite, so beyond the range of normal possibility, that you will question the very laws of nature that allow it to be. It must have come from some supernatural place, the Halls of Asgard or the realm of the faeries, to so transcend the mundane food of this plane of existence. It is "fantastic"; the food of fantasy, such that every bite of the other food you consume for the rest of your mortal days will be as ashes in your mouth, and you will weep bitter tears of regret and loss.

Ahem. Food hall food is not "fantastic." At a pinch, I'd go with "tasty". In general, when you eat in a food hall, there's enough salt and fat to give the dishes an agreeable taste, but that's it. You go in, you choose form the standard range of Chinese, Japanese, Tex-Mex, Vegetarian/Healthy and Kebab stands, and you get an acceptable meal for a low price. Hunger assuaged, money saved, everybody happy. I have had meals in my time that make me question whether the kitchen is staffed by ordinary humans or angels in disguise, but I did not have them in a food hall. And I never will. It is the way of things.

This ad actually makes me crazy, and I mean crazy in the scientific, literal sense. When it comes on, I go all OCD and have to either make a dash for the radio and switch it off, or, if I'm in the shower, stick my fingers in my ears. And with both options, I have to shout "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU VOICEOVER WOMAN FROM THE BLACK LAGOON LA LA LA" to make sure nothing gets through and invades my brain.

I have a low tolerance for linguistic inflation. So sue me.

*A community market set in an old railway depot, not a market for railways, which would be a helluva lot cooler.


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