A hastily conceived mashup of ideas that can only be posted today. For better or (more likely) for worse.
Today is/has been World Mental Health Day. In case you were worried that you should have been doing something about it let me be the first to sooth your furrowed brow. You didn’t need to lift a finger. You should have done absolutely nothing to recognise it but rather you should have put your feet up and relaxed, because that would have been far better for your mental health. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Besides, what difference would or could you have made? Has my day been made much different because someone told me it was World Mental Health Day (WMHD, writing that out every time is going to do my fucking head in, ironically enough)? In short, no. I doubt anyone will have better mental health by the time they go to bed just because someone else decided it would be great to call it WMHD.
Just to put things into perspective let’s not forget that in October we also have World Habitat Day (didn’t they get bought up by Sainsbury’s?), World Teacher’s Day (quite right, teachers are much undervalued, hmmm), World Food Security Day (celebrating bouncers in your kitchen), World Sight Day (haven’t you seen the posters?), World Calamity Control Day (let’s see how that one pans out), World Standard Day (no, I have no idea either), World Food Day (assuming your food wasn’t stolen the day after World Food Security Day), and World Thrift Day (which works for some, but not for all). Perspective now delivered surely you can see that none of these days has the slightest of impacts on the scheme of things so, using the words I originally wanted for this .com domain, why bother?
Today could also just as easily be World Prevent A Fat Kid Day (UK) because those fat kids are back in the news as we try to think of ideas to stop them eating every sugary, lardy, crappy thing they lay eyes on. We’re told it’s become a massive (no pun) problem in Britain but let’s not worry about whose fault it is (food companies/previous governments/advertising/bad parenting/yummy, bad, bad food – in case you were wondering). I eat all kinds of bad crap, always have done, but then I was a cross country runner then and now I go to the gym and that’s all there is to it. I used to eat icing sugar and Horlicks powder and made entire bowls of Angel Delight just for myself and ate four slices of Marmite on toast when I got back from school, every day, but I only really went through one proper fat phase and that was in my early 20’s and a result of post student inertia, Guinness and a complete lack of physical motivation. The day I saw a photo of a fat, pink bloke that was me at my brother’s wedding I drew a line and I’ve been behind that line ever since. But enough about me, let’s talk about those fat kids.
Things have spiralled out of control but we mustn’t forget that eating rubbish is one of the fundamental joys of childhood. Playing, laughing, watching TV, eating junk, farting in the bath etc. Deprive a child of their sweets and you’re cutting away something quite wonderful. But let’s face it, a few sweets are a few sweets and a bar of chocolate is a bar of chocolate, but these days the fat kids of Britain are eating like there’s no tomorrow (which might make them smarter than you think). When did 1KG chocolate bars happen? When did supermarkets start creating cathedrals of Easter eggs in their lobbies? When did a bag of crisps become a ‘grab bag’ and when does a rotund, clammy child really give a toss if that extra big bag says it’s ‘great for sharing’? When did junk food start being advertised at football matches? When did parents start thinking that this crap would be a good way of keeping chubby Billy quiet while he waddles through ASDA?
Well, all these questions may remain mysteries in our time but there might be a few possible solutions. A simple treadmill system in front of every food shop which only allows the sale of produce once the sufficient calories have been burned off in advance. One in every 3 bags of sweets or crisps to be filled with broccoli and shallots, thus adding a frisson of danger and also a subsequently unfulfilled desire, as well wasted expense, to every porky fingered opening ceremony. Offer tax breaks to every vendor that quite brutally explains “sorry kid, you’re just packing too many pounds, I’m afraid all I can do for you is Ryvita and celery”. Or just get kids to drag tractor wheels around with them all day, like in Rocky IV.
There is another avenue worth exploring and it ties in well with mental health. Kind of. Why can’t we start adding motivational messages to junk food packaging? After all what doesn’t a good motivational quote add to our everyday existence? We must make these children believe in themselves, to have confidence that they have a place in a world where a flight of stairs isn’t an invitation to be short of breath. I’m afraid I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning if I couldn’t consult the collected wisdom of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Einstein, Muhammed Ali, Confucius, Michael Jordan, Ronnie Corbett and Barry Gibb. And that’s just the people I’ve heard of. These days a lot of motivational quotes are from total strangers. Before you know it we’ll be taking guidance from the heavily bearded man outside WH Smiths that smells of urine.
So, as motivation to improve unhealthy behaviour patterns you could slap this across a big bag of Kettle crisps – “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Confucius, though some kids might misinterpret that differently, as you can imagine. And what if a serial killer took you up on that advice?
Or try this on the wrapper of a 750g Yorkie bar – “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough” Og Mandino. I had to look him up but frankly it wasn’t worth it. Sorry Og, you can’t solve our Mummy’s little hefalump problem.
And maybe we could have this on the box of a Burger King double bacon cheeseburger – “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence” Helen Keller, which is all well and good but then she did have the advantage of not being able to see herself in the mirror.
The sad thing is that there’s probably a government think tank that really believes this kind of approach might work. I fucking loathe inspirational quotes because they just become words for someone else to hide their own lack of originality behind. David Brent made them a cliché, but we’ve taken that as a lesson, not a warning. If you really want to get kids to stop eating shit you have to scare them; take them out into the deepest recess of what makes them the most terrified and then howl in their faces. But that seems a touch draconian, even to me, and if you did that to everyone with a bad habit or something to hide then you wouldn’t have many left to count. Whichever way it goes banning children from eating on public transport won’t make any difference. There is no alternative I can think of right now, because I’m tired, and because I just want to put my feet up and relax and then tomorrow do some exercise. Maybe. That way I’ll be mentally sorted and not fat. Voila. “Get on with your life and stop listening to bullshit” GB Hewitt.
G B Hewitt. 10.10.2019