SPQR

One of the oddest things to have entered the house recently, mutant daffodils notwithstanding, is a brochure which Dr Biswell acquired as he passed through Cumbria on the way from Manchester to here. It is called, ‘Roaming in Hadrian’s Wall Country’. With the emphasis on Rome. On the front of this is a comely young chap in Roman armour, laid out at his ease on a pastel tartan rug with a picnic basket (French bread, Red Delicious apples, and a couple of objects that look like dried sharks’ fins but are presumably artiginal cheese). That is all very well and fine, but genuine surrealism sets in seven pages later. Under ‘Thriving City and Market Towns’, we find a different legionary, equipped with designer stubble but sporting the same faintly implausible kit (a sort of reinterpreted lorica, wee orange leather kilt, and a kitsch hipster leather belt with a studded pendant presumably intended to look as if it’s guarding a chap’s essentials) –– only he has four shopping bags in different pastel colours and is waving cheerily at a chap in a stripy apron standing in front of an oldfashioned chemist’s. This as-it-were Marcus Didius Geordie then keeps popping up on page after page, romancing a skinny bint in a flowery blue dress who looks as if she wishes she was somewhere else, scoffing wholesome soup in a pub, squaring up (legs only) to a walker in khaki shorts, sitting (very carefully posed) on one of the tables in a pub garden, and chatting up a rather more cheerful and less anorexic blonde –– since they seem to have three pints and two enormous glasses of wine between the pair of them, there might be some reason for their air of inane goodwill. The world of advertising is very strange, but it seems to me that this is particularly silly. The Romans loathed the Wall. While doubtless the squaddies managed the odd boys’ night out, and romance blossomed in unlikely places (one of my favourite odd historical objects is the tombstone, found on the Wall, which Barates, a merchant of Palmyra, had cut in memory of his beloved wife, a British freedwoman called Regina, i.e. Queenie) the Romans were an army of occupation and welcomed as such. I suppose the argument, if it can be called that, is that it was all a long time ago.

One Response to “SPQR”

  1. The Man From Maryport Says:

    Without wishing to claim any credit for adding to the gaiety of the household on this one, I think the rationale for this truly bizarre confection is not far to seek. Somebody obviously told the Geordie Tourist Board that women generally make the decisions about family holidays, not men. They therefore reasoned that a brochure full of alluring young hunks would be more likely to pack in the punters than the artwork of the previous edition (bleak windswept moors & middle-aged beardies in goretex & zamberlans battling courageously against the elements - just the sort of thing to repel right-thinking economic decision-makers in households across the north of England).
    Equally obviously, nobody’s told the Geordie Tourist Board that their creative consultants were having a laugh . . .

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