Summertime in the northern hemisphere
By Musty Bunches | 1 October 2002
Summertime in the northern hemisphere and stressed-out drinks industry executives across the top half of the globe shoot off on holidays full of sand, badly-made cocktails and squawking children. Work slows to a trickle everywhere except Italy, where the annual 10-week break bizarrely sees a major increase in productivity, despite the fact that desks are empty and phones unanswered.
Bereft of news, the press attempt to wring hard news from the flimsiest of rumours, leading to a string of ridiculous stories such as 'Allied Domecq to promote brands shock' and 'Coke - is it really the real thing, ask experts?' Come the end of August, with the newswires as dried up and boring as Donald Rumsfeld, they are reduced to making stories up.
But not Musty. 'Silly season' or not, every one of these stories is guaranteed 100% true. Honest. No matter how ridiculous they might seem. Though that's not to say that they might have received a little gentle embellishment…
Let's start in China, where the summer heat has all been too much for the poor animals in the Shanghai zoo. As the temperature has crept up to 35 degrees C, so the poor caged beasts have wilted in the heat. The bears, for instance, have only found life bearable by begging for drinks off the visitors by posing with their arms folded.
But these shaggy mammals aren't happy with just any old thirst quenchers. Oh no. It seems that while our ursine friends have been utterly seduced by the charms of Coke, repeatedly draining every last drop, they've been equally definite about rejecting bottles of mineral water, which they apparently find rather boring.
Attempts by Pepsi to counter Coca Cola's unplanned 'bears like Coke' coup by feeding Pepsi Max to a pride of lions apparently met with a nasty end, when the lions preferred the marketing manager to his product.
Across Europe the weather has been making headlines, too,with storms of epic proportions ravaging the continent. In Italy, hailstones the size of peaches hospitalised dozens of people and reduced vineyards to tattered bundles of leafless twigs, while in Prague a seal called Gaston made a heroic bid for freedom when flood waters submerged his zoo. The severity of the weather even had some questioning whether it was a message from some higher power, such as the Diageo board or failing that, God.
"Good job it's not a Vinexpo year," said one industry observer. "Then we'd have had a plague of Frogs as well…"
Talking of her dear friends the French, Musty is pleased to see that they've been successfully getting their pantalons in a twist over the government's latest attempt to stop the national sport of drinking copious amounts of alcohol then wrapping your car round a tree. The problem is the latest anti-drink driving campaign, which features a view through a car windscreen that is being blurred by the glass of a wine bottle, along with the line 'Alcohol reduces your field of vision'.
Not much there for the drinks bods to complain about, you'd have thought. But such naivety would ignore the ability of your average French wine industry representative to start an argument in an empty room. The problem? The advert "discriminates against wine", apparently, and should have shown spirits and beer bottles as well. The result? The filing of a legal complaint to halt the campaign.
Presumably the plaintiffs would rather that les francais carried on reducing themselves to strawberry jam on the road than that there's any suggestion of a let-up in wine consumption.
All of which goes rather nicely to prove that the ad is right. Alcohol does, indeed, reduce your field of vision - and nowhere more so than in the wine industry.
Alas for Coke and Pepsi, no such reduced vision in India, where their giant logos were all too visible painted on the mountainous Manali Rohtang pass. Citing 'damage to the ecology' the fizz giants were ordered by the Indian government to remove them, which some bright spark interpreted as "cover them both with yellow paint".
While both Coke and Pepsi deny any responsibility for the corporate graffiti, the government is in a quandary, since removing the daubings with paint thinners is likely to cause further harm to the environment. Perhaps they should call in the cola loving bears from Shanghai zoo.
Joining Coke and Pepsi, another company which is, literally, in the shit at the moment is Jim Beam. Following what the distiller saw as rather liberal use of the bathroom by its workers for unofficial time-outs, cigarettes etc, the company has decided to get tough. Under a new hard-line regime, workers on the Bourbon's bottling line are allowed only four toilet breaks during their nine and a half hour shift. Yes four. In nine and a half hours. Not only that, but only one of these is allowed to be 'unscheduled'. The rest have to be booked in advance, like theatre tickets or restaurant tables.
Any workers whose degenerate capitalist bladders cause them to flout this Stalinist rule will be 'warned', with six warnings constituting a sackable offence or, possibly, summary executions in the town square.
Either way, the proletariat haven't taken the bladder fascism lying down. With legs crossed, they have appealed to their union. "Obviously something had to be done about this new rule," said a union representative. "The company is just taking the piss…"
Possibly more worrying for Musty is the thought of what lengths those with a weak bladder might go to not to attract punishment. I mean, have you seen the colour of Bourbon? And have you tasted Jim Beam?
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