Back to the nursery?

Now let me see, who have we got here? I see several Eds and Nicks, then there is Bob, Sam, Jo, Dan, Danny, Greg, Liz and Nicky. No, it’s not a roll call at our nice neighbourhood nursery; these names belong to members of the Rt.Hon. David Cameron’s Ministry, the 90th Cabinet of the United Kingdom since 1707.The trend to use pet names for politicians probably began with Tony Blair. Mrs Thatcher was widely called Maggie, but only behind her back, never officially. Now this rash of cosy junior names seems to be the height of fashion, perhaps to make their owners seem approachable and friendly, and – I am guessing – youthful and dynamic, too.

Well, this voter is perplexed but not impressed. I prefer my politicians to sound grown-up, even if some of their actions contradict that status. And I am worried by a creeping infantilisation of our daily lives. The other day I was listening to a top politician talking about an important social issue on the radio: he sounded authoritative and knowledgeable, and then suddenly spoilt it all by mentioning mummies, daddies, grannies and kids. Ouch – to me this was the verbal equivalent of wearing a pair of khaki shorts with a dinner jacket.

Politics isn’t the only area where I notice a return to childish things. As children, we live in a magical universe where objects are alive and can be related to; I remember having lively conversations with toys, mugs and a favourite cushion. Now objects address me directly. The cardboard boxes in which my organic veg is delivered every week says in bold print “To fold, press me here” and helpfully shows the drawing of a hand to make sure I get the message. Then again a lovely pot plant someone gave me carried a note which began with “How do I care for this plant?” A sound and justified question. But in the line below I read: “Put me on a window sill and don’t let me dry out”. A brief identity crisis erupts. Is this the plant answering my question, and if not, am I to move onto the window sill?

All right, just kidding. But the other day I passed a greengrocer’s  shop, where the vegetables on display carried large, colourful  notices saying “Buy me!” “Taste me!” “Try me for flavour!” That’s a shop I’ll never visit. Even in this era of neo-infantilism and talking objects  I really can’t tolerate being shouted at by a cucumber.


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