There was, for a while, a certain amount of tension; then it faded, as tension does. We’re all experimental animals, really, subject to vivisection by means of a scientific method we ourselves promulgate. The electric plate is charged, we yelp and try to struggle over the wall – but once we realise our struggles are futile we collapse, and lie whimpering as we’re subjected to shock after shock.
We collected the tokens assiduously, even though it entailed visiting several corner shops, often late at night, and rummaging through dusty shelves under the sleepy lenses of duff CCTV cameras. Why? Because such is the parsimony of the mighty Kellogg Corporation that it can afford to be capricious: an offer will be proffered – then, without warning, the free-gift-bearing hand will be retracted, as if it, too, has been subjected to an electric shock.
Anyway, at last we had the three tokens required and we sat down in front of the computer and logged on to the mandated site. I wrote in this column last May that my 13-year-old son and I had leapt at the Kellogg’s “personalised spoon” offer, our only desire to have a spoon engraved with the legend “WHICH ORIFICE? YOUR CHOICE”. But when we saw the options on offer we
were dismayed; “personalising” turned out to mean branding your name on the eating iron, not using its steely surface as a sort of miniature toilet wall on to which you could graffito such off-colour remarks. We scrolled through the names on offer, hoping against hope we would find something that approached the sentiment we wished to convey – and then, miracle of miracles, there it was: Butt Munch.
Yup, you read me right: one of the “names” the Kellogg’s website actually suggested that punters might like to personalise their free cutlery with was . . . Butt Munch. My boy and I goggled at the screen until the pixels began to pop, crackle and snap before our eyes. Who in the mighty Kellogg Corporation had authorised this bizarrely subversive insertion, in between all the Keishas, Kellies and Kevins? We goggled at the screen some more, half expecting the letters to waver and dissolve into a sweet and milky sludge. Not a bit of it: Butt Munch remained on the table. So we selected it, entered our postal address, clicked the button, sat back, and waited.
And waited . . . and attended some more. My son was of the opinion that the Butt Munch was the work of computer hackers. After all, it was simply beyond belief that Kellogg’s, with its ethical roots sunk deep in the socially conservative soil of Seventh-Day Adventism, could sanction the idea of people munching on butts – let alone actively promote it. You’ll recall that even the tolerant and sexually adventurous Molly Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses, when awakened by her husband indulging in a little late-night butt-munching, is rather . . . shocked. It’s one thing for fictional characters to practise butt-munching in the privacy of their own home – quite another for breakfast cereal consumers to have such perversions urged on them from the handles of their spoons. Besides, Kellogg’s has its dietetic reputation to uphold. Seventh-Day Adventists are much preoccupied by the health of the “whole person”, and the company was established in part to disseminate notions of healthy eating. Now, even though butt-munching isn’t necessarily unhealthy, nor is it holistic: for that, you have to munch the “whole person”.
As we continued to wait for our subversive spoon – May ladled into June – still it didn’t come. I never thought it would, because whether the “Butt Munch” option was deliberately offered by a maverick employee, or maliciously by an infantile nerd wearing a V for Vendetta mask, there was no way several Kellogg’s staff were going to collude in making and despatching it. I set to one side the vision that had originally animated our quest: my descendants, many years in the future, staring bemusedly at the faint inscription on their inherited cutlery. I got on with my life – it was a disappointment, true, but no more of one than realising Ronald McDonald isn’t a really funny clown but a cynical advertising tool. I went to Australia and travelled deep into the Outback, visiting remote regions where few proper spoons, let alone personalised ones, are ever seen, and the sparse local population has to eat its Rice Bubbles with cumbersome, makeshift tools beaten out of bits of corrugated iron.
Then, upon my return, there it was! A visitation! A miracle! A beautiful red cardboard box with a transparent cellophane panel in it, through which could be seen the slim, shiny handle of a spoon – and on this handle the delightfully suggestive appellation “Butt Munch”. The packaging alone was a provocation to lust, resembling as it did silky, translucent lingerie. Soon enough I’d torn it off and was feverishly caressing my new spoon.
I grew still more fervid when I turned the insurrectionary implement over and saw “Kellogg’s®” engraved on the back of the handle. So there they are: a puerile invocation to sexual activity and a multinational snack-maker, united for ever in a spoon. What a joy it is to be alive in Jeremy Corbyn’s Britain.
Next week: Madness of Crowds
This article appears in the 23 Sep 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Revenge of the Left