I was trapped at the roundabout at the bottom of Fulham Palace Road, going nowhere. This gave me ample time to admire the sharpness and surety of a Clinique Bus Side communicating yet another miracle creme.
It was a master class in the art of communicating Certainty.
It was less the actual nature-defying aspect of the crème itself and the certainty of what promised and more the surgical certainty of its sense of self – its absolute right to be on the side of a bus telling me everything’s going to be OK. The precision and fixedness of the way it looked and felt – the production values – and the voice with which it spoke that seduced me.
Everything about the bus side, the clarity of the type face, the exquisite finishing on the photography – the meticulous attention to detail and the inherent balance carried a confidence and absoluteness that screamed Certainty. Even the white background was more certain of its whitest whiteness than any white background around it.
Surely nothing bad can happen in a world where Clinique exists. Not really. Clinique exists in a world where YouTube beheadings don’t happen. Where the Far Right is merely a reference to which end of the Front Row you’re seated at when the GUCCI show comes to London fashion Week.
The CERTAINTY which the bus side imbued me with, even just fleetingly, was mesmerising, desperately delusional but boy it felt good.
Thankfully the news on the radio reminded me that I do in fact live in a world where places like Aleppo exist, along with the pain and human suffering and outrage that seem to accompany our species on our journey to self-determined extinction.
In Clinique World Baby Orangutans don’t get ripped from their dying mothers in a rain forest and sold for a couple of dollars – all for the want of some palm oil to grease the palm of western vanities. You can be certain of that. Not here. Not us. Not Right Here Right Now.
But that’s escapism for you. It doesn’t always have to be a movie or a song. Escapism comes in many forms. And at the beating heart of Escapism is certainty with a dash of hope. Hope of better. Hope of something else.
Certainty can be consumption; even the toxic kind. Especially the toxic kind. The kind that helps me forget even just for a second that I am simply surviving with stickers, unlikely to ever reach the giddy heights of just Being, free at last to unclutter my life of all the ballast of Certainty I’ve been propping myself up with along the way.
Hiding inside a lifestyle we couldn’t otherwise afford without racking it up on credit card – and living the dream of Having It All seems to be the order of the day. Shiny skin creams are Us. Gorgeous smells and not thinking too hard about stuff.
Kind of understandable now that our always-on news feeds relentlessly bombard us with the exceptional output of human madness and cruelty.
As long as I can use my swipey app to order EXACTLY what I deserve in the take away department and be certain that it will arrive, piping hot, aromatic, and with a roll on reward offer – as long as I can treat myself because I’m worth it – hell I’m alive aren’t I? Give me a break.
Certainty is one of those things that acts as a much needed corrective for ordinary people in an increasingly volatile world – a world Warren-Buffeted by collapsing and soaring markets and share prices, the death of the social contract, strange political shifts (has no one noticed the correlation between the rise of tyrants and the exercising of the Populist Vote – or is that just me?) and the onslaught of some rather crazy weather.
The future is indeed bright – the future is Donald not going out for a duck; the near future at least.
I have a theory that there must be a set of scales somewhere – scales that will illustrate that the more screen time Donald gets, the more people will (in the absence of God) crave and stream Morgan Freeman movies.
In times of trouble, Certainty can also be a voice – like Morgan’s, or that of David Attenborough. When the day closes in and stuff gets dreadful, and the reassurance of watching Frasier re runs isn’t working anymore – cue Attenborough’s salving voice and his pictures of beauty – of a world where we are still richly interwoven into something more sublime and greater than ourselves, rather than hovering above it like the sword of Damocles above its head.
As Simon & Garfunkel might one day sing:
“When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends can’t be found…
Watch Morgan in Bruce Almighty”
Certainty can also be a season.
As Christmas roars towards us – having started its mighty yawp on November the 1st, we all start to feel a little more certain; because Christmas is certain.
Christmas lights up the darkest night in the deepest black of the year.
Year in and Year out. Unwavering. Immutable. Unmovable. Christmas allows us to embrace the certainty of it and all that comes with it.
The world lights up (the western Christian one specifically). And life is good.
Who cares if the brands get to milking the Purse of Human Kindness, ferociously pick pocketing every ounce of insecurity in us and replacing it with a rather shiny bauble to give or receive. Love that.
The certainty of Christmas doesn’t just start early because the brands and businesses make more money out of it.
Christmas lasts for two months because we need a new super charged amount of its glorious twinkling certainty to off-set the all the awfulness we have to consume the rest of the year.
We simply aren’t capable of crawling the last few yards to something like a more respectful December 12 or 13th Christmas start.
We would fold into a despondent mess way before then. We are ravenous for the exquisite promise of Certainty that Christmas begins. (And its Sales – because they’re different to all the other all year round sales aren’t they? Of course they are!!)
Even the commercials that the big retail brands produce have become a pillar of that Certainty. John Lewis. Thank-you for redeeming me with a gold plated you-tube film featuring furry creatures on a child’s garden trampoline. Bless you for that.
A sugar coated filmic hit of Certainty.
In a world where a boxer dog’s ears flap up and down with merriment as we ding dong our merrily on high – what could possibly go wrong?
Who cares if there’s a shed load of brands and businesses out there relentlessly reframing their value as some salve ‘in an uncertain world’. We’ve got formation dancing, leaping creatures, red Starbucks cups and for chrissakes, THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING.
In fact, even in this volatile roller coaster life of ours, of one thing I can be almost certain. Christmas is the bomb when it comes to CERTAINTY.
If I find myself on Christmas Day parked in front of the telly, my face soaked in Clinique For Men Anti Ageing Serum, the milky sweet of Bailey’s buttering my lips, a scatter of walnut casings and Ferrero wrappers peppering my technicolour Ted Baker gilet, watching the Shawshank Redemption, followed by a Life On Earth Double Bill, all to the accompaniment of the chirrup grunt squeak boing of a quality-street assortment of furry creatures bouncing up and down on the trampoline outside my triple glazed bullet proof conservatory windows – I may just explode in a cascade of tinsel twinkling Certainty.
Heaven. (If you happen to believe in that sort of thing.)