I know I have only recently returned from holiday, etc. etc., and my internal spirit-level hasn’t yet settled, but I have of course been in a lot of tat shops while away, and don’t you think, no really don’t you think that the fridge magnet has had its day? There are several thingummies on sale where tourists come and go, thinking of anything but Michelangelo, and these include key-fobs, of which, in my opinion, you cannot have too many – more fobs than keys and you hear the eminently losable bunch fall helplessly to the floor – and also names for placing on bedroom or any other doors. These names do not include Bill. Bill has yet to make his comeback, as has Stan, and as has Albert. (But keep your eye on Ellen, who seems to have made a sudden run forward from the Victorian era. I do know a couple of Ellens, and nice they are, too, but they are the exceptions about, I suspect, to be overcome by the rule).
But fridge magnets? Who are we kidding any more. It started with a whimsy about twenty-five years ago, and now it is a racket which is keeping most major tourist attractions, and probably the National Trust itself, in business. (It would be very interesting to see the National Trust’s accounts, and to see exactly how much dosh is deposited each year in its coffers by the careless purchasers of fridge magnets.)
The thing about fridge magnets is that a) they do not really do anything for the fridge, which has been designed with clean cool lines in mind, b) they start to multiply and become a kind of clutter, rather than a display, and c) they have cheap magnets on them, and after a short life, they drop off on to the floor, or even (how?) behind the fridge. Somewhere there is of course a very large factory, which I hope is paying wages well above the national minimum, which is turning out magnets that are destined to have only a very short and useless life. It may be that they are in the next bay or on the next belt from batteries which have next to no life in them, and just round the corner from key-fob-clasps that snap after a fortnight. There is a culture here of naffness (and of a world of disposability which has just reminded me of Canadian comedian Stephen Wright’s great joke: ‘I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included’).
Now I am not here to pontificate about the disposable. I am just here to say that I think, as a fashion statement, the fridge magnet has out-stayed its useleness. There must be a more pertinent gizmo in which the world can indulge the coppers left in its pockets. Oddly enough, I have a gizmo which everyone who seess, admires. It was my father’s and it is a one-pound-coin holder. I suspect it is as old as one-pound coins, but you can’t get them any more for love or – well, one-pound coins. Entrepreneurs of the world: now is the moment to strike.