Monday, March 20, 2006

We're terribly House and Garden...

Visiting the Ideal Home exhibition at Earl's Court this weekend was an odd experience. I remember being taken there when I was a child, but I didn't recall anything about the place or the event itself. The whole set-up makes you wonder how it's financed: entrance fee is a hefty £15 per adult, and you're charged £4.50 for a guide, of which the only useful pages are the maps at the end; one assumes that the exhibitors also pay some fee to have a stand, small or large; and the whole thing is sponsored by various companies. So one has to wonder - who makes any money? The exhibitors presumably make up their costs in increased orders or profile, and perhaps homeowners visiting can get some good offers.

Most of the stands had a mixture of presenters - young and old, male and female, presumably designed to appeal to the various people visiting. It was noticeable that (I'm generalising here, and there were exceptions) the pretty young women adorning their stands were able to answer the first, trivial questions: however, as soon as one asked a slightly more complicated question, one was handed over to the experienced, generally middle-aged male, colleague. The thing that astonished me about the totty was how they managed to stand around all day in high heels - and most of them seemed to be wearing four-inch spikes. My feet were aching after a day wandering around in comfy flats.

Admittedly, there were some interesting and useful products and services being sold, but also some really useless stuff - the kind of redundant kitchen gadgets such as rice cookers and auto-dicers that made one wonder why using an ordinary saucepan or knife is considered such a crime. The low point was the stand displaying the kind of glowing "moving picture" that I thought was the provenance of Chinese restaurants. They really were terrible: so tacky. I'm pleased to say that I managed to come away with nothing but a book of "vouchers" for my pains, and an increased respect for the people demonstrating all these things, who must wear out their voices and sense of humour answering the same old questions and trotting out the same patter.

The BBC bemoan the theme of the show as not being ambitious enough: certainly most of the show is just a big department store. I didn't get to see much, because of other preoccupations, but the big waterfall in the middle was quite spectacular!


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