It was with a sense of incredulity that I read in today's Guardian that VisitBritain, the government QUANGO ("quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation") charged with the task of attracting foreign tourism to the country had laid on a special breakfast for the UK's first ever "delegation of official Chinese tourists", telling them that what they would be enjoying during their stay would be "Britain: The Brand". Quite apart from the startling rhetoric of this assertion (we will not show you "authentic" Britain, but rather Britain the Commodity. This is certainly a new direction in tourism strategy; we can only wonder what the Chinese made of it), my sense of disbelief was awakened by the contents of the "goody bag" offered to our guests in order to cement the desired image of "Britain" in their minds. It contained:
1 x Harrod's carrier bag
1 x can of London's Pride beer
1 x cuddly lion (?)
1 x CD of Chicago - The Musical (??)
1 x mug
I doubt even people from London will recognise themselves or their country much amongst that lot. I know, I know; a well-balanced Scotsman is one with a chip on both shoulders. Still...