A COUPLE of Adver stories have got me thinking about advertising, public images and stuff like that, writes BARRIE HUDSON.

One was about Great Western Railway having to pay out more than £6m over the past year to passengers who suffered unacceptable delays.

The other was about local shopkeepers responding to the upcoming law change, which will see cigarettes sold in plain packets with photos of diseased lungs and whatnot.

Whenever I hear a story involving Great Western Railway I always suffer a slight mental derailment. Surely Great Western Railway hasn’t been around for decades. Surely it was the old firm associated with efficient and punctual steam services hauling happy passengers all over the country, with cheery and well-treated staff and with perfectly-tended stations. Then, as with a recent bereavement momentarily and blissfully forgotten, I remember that Great Western Railway is what the former First Great Western calls itself these days.

I daresay the name was chosen precisely because of its association with the glories of the past and the magnificent human beings who made them possible.

A cynic might suggest that the change of name is an insult to our intelligence. A cynic might suggest the company is effectively saying: “The public are so slobberingly stupid, so utterly devoid of grey matter, that we can get away with offering the same rubbishy old service for years to come if we change our name to something fondly remembered.”

I, however, am not a cynic. I believe the company may be on to something, and that rebranding is a great way of making improvements without having to do anything difficult, such as improving.

Accordingly, I’m going to experiment with applying similar principles to my day-to-day life.

For starters, I’m going to do something about being a baldy bloke. Not that I’m especially bothered about being a baldy bloke, but this is science.

The normal strategy for a baldy bloke who wants to stop being a baldy bloke is to spend hundreds of quid on a wig, thousands on a transplant or experiment with one of those expensive lotions you end up having to buy for the rest of your life, and which seem to make your scalp grow a light dusting of armpit hair.

I’ll be following the First Great Western/Great Western Railway strategy instead. I’ve nicked a black felt tip pen from the stationery cupboard and I’m going to write the word ‘hair’ in big letters on the top of my head. Then I’m off to the barber’s to get it styled.

I’m also throwing out my list of diet tips for blokes of a certain age, along with every item of exercise equipment in the house. Instead, I’m going to carry on drinking beer and eating big cakes, then take my trusty felt tip pen and write the words ‘six pack’ on my abdomen.

While I’m at it, I’m going to write “20/20 vision” very carefully on each eyelid so I can drive without wearing my glasses.

I’ve also decided, alongside three friends of mine, that we should have been legendary rock stars in spite of not being able to sing, play an instrument or write songs, and of having no stage presence whatsoever.

Come and check us out when we get our first gig.

We’re calling ourselves The Beatles.

Meanwhile, the story about the fag packets with pictures of poorly people’s parts also intrigued me.

Perhaps it could be taken up by the food industry and the booze industry, with shots of leathery livers, fat-shrouded pancreases and suchlike.

I’m sure our leaders would press ahead with such a measure irrespective of the possible impact on political donations and future directorships.

Now I think about it, we could take the principle even further, with the cover of every manifesto showing a bull fertilising a field in a way that comes naturally.

Alert over blackmail

THE police have delivered a timely warning about online sexual blackmail.

This is what happens when crooks trick the unwary into performing embarrassing acts in front of a webcam, then threaten to send the footage to their contacts.

If you are a person who likes doing unusual things online, then good luck to you so long as you’re not hurting anybody.

To protect yourself, I suggest you make a new screensaver – a collage of photos including images of your boss, your mum, your dad, your granny, your granddad and your pets.

Think of them as being able to see whatever it is you’re considering doing, even if some are watching from Heaven.

That should put you off doing anything too compromising.

Or put you off doing anything at all.

If it doesn’t, the risk of blackmail may be the least of your problems.

Tax shame councillor must be outed

SWINDON Borough Council refused to name a councillor ordered by magistrates to cough up £981.62 in unpaid council tax.

The elected representative had disputed the sum but eventually paid.

The council’s statement read in part: “We would not release the details of a member of the public in such circumstances.”

Well, that’s fine and dandy, but the public have nothing to do with setting the council tax.

Councillors, however, have everything to do with setting the council tax.
They are part of an organisation called a council, which sets the council tax.

If they decide, for whatever reason, not to pay the council tax set by a council of which they are a member, then those of us who are not councillors have the right to know who they are and the circumstances of their refusal. 


Should we be denied that right, we are perfectly entitled to conclude that there’s one rule for them and another for everybody else.

Assuming we haven’t already done so a long, long time ago.