Every time I pass my local McDonalds and glance into the new-look dining room, I can’t help but marvel at the cold, flinty genius behind their most recent advertising push.
You know the one – all these average Joes who were ‘just passing by’ – people from all walks of life, all tucking happily into their burgers. Your subconscious prods you excitedly: they’re just like me – that could be me in there! God, I take the gherkin out before I eat a cheeseburger too! The spoken poems come at you like a train, tickling you internally with their catchy rhythm and, slowly but surely, against your better judgement, McDonalds manages to endear itself to you just a little. (More than the soft-focus footage of children frolicking amongst hay bales ever did anyway.)
I’m curious as to which particular store the company used to study and capture the antics of these average McDonalds customers. Not the one around the corner from me, that’s for certain. Had they come to my part of town, the narration would have run rather differently…
I had a contemplative Sunday yesterday, because until I opened The Observer I didn’t know that Egon Ronay had died. When I learned that, it certainly brought back memories.
The first time I saw Egon Ronay in action was when I was about eight years old. It was a Sunday afternoon at my grandparents’ house, the telly was on, and my brother and I were glued to it while the adults slumped on the sofas making small talk.
I can’t remember what we were watching. It could have been a holiday show. However, it’s more than likely to have been Masterchef, which was staple Sunday afternoon viewing at that time. Masterchef also happened to be one of our favourite comedy programmes, firstly for its hilarious opening sequence of an egg being cracked in slow motion into a bowl of flour (which we liked to record on VCR and rewind…), secondly for Lloyd Grossman’s double whammy of silly name and sillier accent, and thirdly for the way the judges admired the painstakingly poised food for a brief moment before thoroughly demolishing it, eating one spoonful, and leaving it behind, razed to the ground. The audacity.
It’s not important how or why Egon Ronay had a slot on whichever show it was: what caught my attention was his job title. (His name too, in all honesty. But mostly his job title.) At that age, I was constantly being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. Up until then I’d answered firmly that I wanted to be a waitress, because I loved the black dress and frilly pinny I’d seen on the French serveuses in ‘Allo allo. I hadn’t thought beyond that, except for the fact that I also wanted to read Enid Blyton at university.
Recently I’ve become addicted to sitting with one fist in my mouth and the fingers of my other hand splayed over my eyes while I watch the childbirthing antics on Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute. This is part of a personal exercise in confronting the idea that one day I could be writhing helplessly on a hospital bed, lowing like cattle and waiting for an infant who will resemble a tiny, slime-covered version of myself to make a painful and dignity-stripping appearance.
This weekly shriek and sob-athon is compulsive viewing that never fails to leave me gibbering and rocking starry-eyed on the sofa. How do these women endure the marathon of birth? Most cling to the grim knowledge that there’s no choice: their baby has to come out somehow.
The teenage mother that starred this week was the exception to this rule. There she was with her mum and boyfriend, wailing and shaking and thoroughly petrified at her body’s revolt. ‘I can’t do this!’ she convinced herself over and over. ‘Yes you can,’ said her mum kindly. ‘When this is over, I’ll buy you a sausage and egg McMuffin – how does that sound?’
I’m not going to answer that question. OK, I am – I can’t help myself. It sounded so gross I had to cover my eyes again.