I was on a bus recently, going from Edinburgh Airport into the city and we were driving through Corstorphine – once home to the poet Helen Cruickshank – and suddenly there was this big billboard outside the local church saying ‘The Heart of Corstorphine’. An elderly couple noticed this and one said to the other: ‘Not in our experience it isn’t!’ and had a little chuckle to themselves.
It might seem like an innocent and insignificant enough thing, but this is the tip of an iceberg. Everywhere you turn, we seem to be swaddled in layers of delusional rhetoric, and we are expected to be complicit in this game – like the oversized Elf figure in the film of the same name getting unbelievably excited when he comes across a diner in the Big Apple that promises ‘the best coffee in the world’.
It’s more than mere hyperbole and lazy use of superlatives – it’s also used as a tactic by companies as an easy spell to shirk responsibility. ‘Oh no, sir, that couldn’t possibly be a rat in your soup as we operate under the very strictest of hygiene laws’. My local town goes by the tagline ‘the friendliest port’ and I can assure it is not – there may be plenty of affable types live there, but it’s not a warm and cosy place. I’ve lost count of the number of pubs that have offered me ‘the warmest of welcomes’ and when I’ve gone in it’s been like the watering hole from the film Straw Dogs.
Any person in any field just needs to distinguish themselves a little to be hailed a ‘legend’ (that also applies to things like bigotry which is confused these days with ‘speaking your mind’). In order to become a ‘hero’ or a ‘life saver’ sometimes all it takes is making someone an unsolicited cup of tea…
We live in a time where there are no facts (concrete facts are often disputed – case in point the ‘world is flat’ brigade) but instead a series of opinions parading themselves as facts. An age where a wig toting man swathed in tan from a can tells us authoritatively what is and isn’t ‘fake news’. What a time for a poet to exist in!