Thursday, May 12, 2005

Anyone for souvenirs!!?

OUVENIR shops can be found in airports, cities and marketplaces everywhere. And let's be honest. Souvenirs are tacky, tacky, tacky.According to souvenir shops, Aussie culture consists of bullet-riddled road signs, koalas and kangaroos in cork hats, Aboriginal art ties (traditionally worn by which tribe exactly?), crocodile stubby holders, Sydney Harbour Bridge nail cutters and canned witchetty grubs. Souvenirs are tacky. But surprisingly tempting.
In Youghal, Ireland, a friend found a 3-D, 1m-long plaster replica of the Last Supper. It was a classic. Lovingly handpainted Jesus looked cross-eyed; Peter appeared to be a drag queen and the remaining Apostles had obviously been hitting the turps. She had trouble fittig it in her luggage. She also bought a leprechaun soft-toy. Big mistake.
It played a techno-version of When Irish Eyes are Smiling at random moments in her luggage thus causing her to sweat with anxiety in Customs queues and look as if she'd had nine crack-cocaine-filled condoms for breakfast.
In the Netherlands, Carl – the gay doll wearing socks with sandals – was on a par with George Washington Barbie from New York. Barbie was decked out in George Washington clobber including wig to celebrate President's Day. Why? Was George Washington a cross-dresser? Or do Americans want Barbie for president?
Other tacky but tempting souvenirs I've found include whisky-flavoured McCondoms in Edinburgh, the fig-leafed statues of David in Italy with fig leaves in three sizes (small, medium and snug), Safe-T man, the life-size, simulated male inflatable car companion in LA, and the Parthenon coffee table in Athens. All available on the internet!
But now with two famous funerals and a royal wedding, tourists are facing an explosion in kitsch souvenirs. There are Charles and Camilla T-shirts, mouse mats, mugs, fridge magnets and key rings all sporting the April 8, 2005, date. If the wrong date doesn't have collectors hyperventilating, then the tea towel will. The less-than-brilliant sketch portraits suggest that Charles is actually marrying Rod Stewart.
Meanwhile, in Rome, the Vatican is ramping up its souvenir sale opportunity marketing Pope John Paul II candles, busts, key chains, 3-D Jesus pop-up postcards, glow-in-the-dark rosary beads, Divine Mercy lapel pins and Pontiff Pill Boxes.
While in Monaco, there is the Prince Rainier commemorative mug, plate and a stamp. Being only two square kilometres, Monaco is about the size of a postage stamp. So it seems appropriate.
But I feel sorry for the Queen. She has one of the tackiest china collections in the world. It includes Charles and Diana's wedding china, four mugs and a plate, Andrew and Sarah's wedding china, three mugs and a plate, Anne and Mark Phillips' wedding china, one mug, and Edward and Sophie's wedding china, one mug. And guess where the Queen keeps this collection? At Balmoral Castle in a shed, or stables, out the back.
I don't think the Queen mixes paint in the mugs or anything. But she has the right idea. She's already set the precedent. And she won't have to look at Camilla's mug on her mantelpiece.


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