An 18-wheeler articulated lorry has brought festive cheer, because a reindeer-drawn sleigh just doesn't carry enough cans of fizzy
(This opinion column is copied here only because I know it'll be taken down eventually from the Plymouth Herald website)
The Coca Cola van is in town and I couldn’t be more appalled.
“Oh, but it’s Christmas” I hear Plymothian’s cry, in between mouthfuls of Bacon Double Cheese Burgers from Generic American Takeaway and staring slack-jawed at Sky Sports 4 - The LDV Van Trophy Replays.
Let’s be very clear. Coca Cola is not Christmas. It’s no more Christmas than being given a butt plug and a dirty raincoat from your across-the-road neighbour Alf who stares at you through his filthy net curtains while holding himself. Because yet again he picked you out for your street’s Secret Santa.
It is carbonated water, with enough sugar in it to make a toddler scream “enough already, can I have some carrot sticks and celery please!’
'Yes kids, you waddle over to the Coca Cola truck and meet Father Christmas while I sit here...'
Do we celebrate each time South West Water find a fat-berg clogging up our sewers and claim it’s part of a Christmas tradition?
Because for the last decade Coca Cola’s annual reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission have listed obesity and its health consequences as the single greatest threat to the company profits.
To counter that threat it has deployed intensive marketing – such as suggesting somehow A Coke is for Christmas – along with lobbying and pouring millions of dollars into fighting any campaign by government to tax or cap the size of sugary drinks.
Childhood obesity - no, go on, have some more sugary drinks sweetie
‘But the Coca Cola truck is Christmas Carl, you grouchy git’. Oh really. Really? On November 14, which happened to be World Diabetes Day, the Coca Cola truck was in Newcastle, the city where it sponsors Park Lives, which encourages more exercise.
Now, whereas I consider that hitting the Irony Meter at full strength, you may think that’s noble. But it’s about as noble as Plymouth Half Marathon being sponsored by Capstan Full Strength cigarettes. Or the League Cup sponsored by Coca Cola... which they did.
But, let's be clear - November 14 is not Christmas. So far it’s still a date when if we see lots of Christmas trees being put up in people’s homes we consider them a bit mad and too keen. At least wait until November 25, for God’s sake. We’re British after all.
Eggnog and Coke? Anyone?
It’s the other small merchants I feel sorry for. There they are, paying out a fortune to the council in business rates or the City Centre Company for a ten by ten pitch in the Piazza in the hope that their Summer-house shed full of dog blankets and home-made wicker Santa Clauses will be eagerly visited by Christmas shoppers, when a ruddy great articulated truck, painted blood red with a dash of swervy white lines, like a drunk cocaine-snorting rock star, pulls up and plonks itself on their lawn.
I think the police had the right idea a few years back. In 2011 an ‘unprecedented 1,000-plus’ people swarmed the lorry like hoards of hungry zombies keen to devour a former This Life actor who we now recognise was a stalker in Love Actually and not a romantic man with a pile of vomit-inducing placards.
Shoppers, clamouring for photos of the truck – because in Plymouth they’ve clearly never seen a big red truck before – spilled into the busy Royal Parade, putting their lives at even more risk than drinking gallons of the sugary drink.
'So, that's Christmas is it?' 'No dear, it's a cheap marketing ploy used by a company which makes billions of dollars each year from selling a tar-coloured sugary drink which used to have cocaine in it...'
I say risk, but it’s all comparative. Especially when you consider one in five children are overweight or obese when they start primary school and almost one in three by the time they leave primary school.
Oh, and as for being dismembered by either zombies or by cars whizzing along Royal Parade while drivers gawp slack-jawed at the big red truck, keep in mind that 2014 was marked by a record high number of amputations – more than 8,500 – mostly due to type 2 diabetes, a condition closely linked with being overweight or obese and diets high in sugar can lead to being overweight or obese.
Should I remind you that each can of Coke has around nine teaspoons of sugar, which the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health equates to the recommended daily allowance of sugar – for a full grown male adult?
Frankly, if police started pepper-spraying the crowds around the Cola truck shouting ‘it’s for your own good, you’ll thank us one day’, I wouldn’t be complaining to Amnesty International.
‘Oh, but it’s Christmas Carl, and the Coca Cola truck is very red, which makes it very Christmassy’. Oh FFS. Look – mince pies are Christmassy, but they don’t get more Christmassy if I pour tomato sauce over them? Additionally, I struggle to buy mince pies in the middle of June.
It’s not like Lidl and Marks and Sparks are packed full of Christmas puddings shortly after the Easter holidays. And while I could possibly buy hot mulled wine, eggnog and spiced glühwein in September, the one thing I do know is that they’re not easily available from a decrepit soda machine dispensing the sugary black acidic 2p-coin cleaning gloop from the ever-so Christmassy venues such as a manky coach station located in the arse-end of every city in the world.
‘Yes, but Carl, Santa will be on board. That’s how you know it’s Christmassy’. Oh for the love of…
'Honey, the Pepsi truck is here... does that mean it's Easter?'
Look, would you get this excited if the Lilt truck or the Tango truck came to town with loud-hailers blaring out Noddy Holder’s dulcet tones as long as it had some minimum-wage-paid seasonal fat bloke wearing a beard and Lennon-glasses, plus some skimpily dressed elves who were chosen mainly because they once appeared on Babestation.
You would, wouldn’t you? I despair.