Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Queens Day and the pursuit of pleasure

When I was freelancing a few years ago I used to have loads of ideas, most of them completely unworkable, like the 'yellow bib challenge' where I'd put a high-vis bib on and see what I could get away with before the police stepped in. 

Taking the royal horses for a walk was one idea, announcing a terror scare in a department store was another, while holding a clipboard to look doubly official. They were innocent times. Not like now with your Ay-rabs making everyone twitchy.
A better one concerned an idea for a pleasure machine me and a pal had. The product was a thing which had massive feathers on it, from which bird we knew not. 
It would be powered via a system of pulleys and chords with your feet while lying on your front and the feathers would brush your back and hopefully bum. Sounds ace, doesn't it?
We took pictures of us trying it out - a very early stage effort was built but it didn't work, which didn't really damage my artistic vision of the story. 
Because we didn't have photoshop we put black strips of paper on our eyes so it would look like the people in those 'contact' mags from the 90s. As I understand it. I've still got the pics somewhere but you've got no chance. 
We thought we could try and flog it during Amsterdam's Queen's Day, a 36-hour drinking festival held in honour of the current queen's mother.
Queen's Day is summed up by an Amsterdam resident like this: "If it was held in England there would be a rough survival guide published beforehand, then it would be banned the following year."
To me this one seemed a real goer, and I pitched it to FHM in the form of the opening 300 words or so, as you can see below (they passed). Anyway, here's the pitch:

Queen's Day
Queen's Day

“If blokes are prepared to pay good money to mount this… thing…” FHM’s Amsterdam contact is in full, scathing flow as he points at a blow-up doll. “They’ll defo buy this,” he continues, waving a poorly sketched blueprint at no one in particular. His face screws in disgust until all that remains is a nose, prodding at
the air like an old man’s foreboding finger.
“You couldn’t poke that - it’s a dinghy with a badly sketched woman's face on it,” he concludes. It’s hard to argue with pure logic – especially when it comes from a man in a bathrobe. On such moments revolutions are born.
Summer 2005: The world is plunging headfirst into a chasm of crud and it hasn’t packed a mac. Leisure and relaxation have become more sought after, and more important, than ever before. Won't someone deliver us from this hellish existence? Yes. Yes they will.
What if a product came along that, at a stroke, could banish the cares of the day and deliver the user to Xanadu – and all in the comfort of their own home? Wouldn't you want a bit of that? And what better place to introduce this new gadget than Amsterdam – don’t answer that, you’d cheapen us both.
The scheme is simplicity in its purest, most beautiful form: Turn up, buy the ingredients, make the thing, take if to those Queensday-addled Amsterdamers and empty their pockets. All in time for happy hour at the Flying Dutchman – home of the drunken fatty.
We hit the streets with a plan, a pocket full of Euros and a shopping list:
Fishing wire
Fishing weight
Wall brackets
Clock motor
Three big feathers (extra-fancy kind)
Pole (snooker cue, telescopic shower rail or similar)

On Leidseplein in central Amsterdam people stroll through the crisp, bright day – smiling and chatting as another afternoon drifts aimlessly by. Two Englishmen cause no stir as they walk through the crowds towards Blokker – your one-stop-shop for household goods. 


And that was it - shame on you, FHM! You had a corker right there in your hands.

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