Union Jacks – they’re everywhere you look this week. Carnaby Street has a cool glittery one which only reads as a flag when you reach a certain angle, like the Channel Four logo. Liberty has one made of flowers, Aquascutum one made of diamonds, and they’re appearing in ethnic colours and in shop window displays beside Brenda and the gang across the city.
Comparisons between the fifties and the present are in all the papers. 1952 was apparently all bad; no central heating, no frozen food, rationing and not many TVs. Actually that all sounds quite good, and at least their tuna wasn’t radioactive.
But it’s pointless to compare the present with the past. The world has – well, not evolved exactly – but changed. Okay, we still have Old Etonians in power, Bruce Forsyth is still on TV and no doubt Cliff Richard will be at Wimbledon as usual, and look at all the TV channels that offer, between them, roughly the same amount of decent programming as in 1952. And soon we’ll be moving closer back to 1952 with the reappearance of the drachma and the peseta.
And retro is everywhere! They’ve pulled down the filling station at the end of my street and put up an idealised facsimile of a filling station that’s actually a restaurant called The Filling Station. What makes it more confusing is that the original filling station also sold food. And camping, that’s back for people visiting the Olympics, although the campsites are somewhere past Reading, which is presumably rebranding itself as part of London for the event, just as Easyjet is doing with Southend Airport.
What I don’t see anywhere are 1952 prices. A cab-driver told me that the fares went up in April ready for the visitors, and there are price-hikes happening all over the capital. The worst example of pointless nostalgia branding I’ve seen so far is Addidas Limited Edition Shower Gel (i.e. it has a tiny Union Jack on the label). At least Liberty’s has gone down the tasteful route of decking its wooden balconies with good old-fashioned bunting. Expect more jubilee-related foolishness in the week ahead!