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A lovely and safe day in London

Big Ben London England (vector)

Big Ben London England (vector)  

In vulnerable times, the British capital retains its smiles while also working on aspects of safety

‘It’s impossible for the British to say, ‘Have a nice day,’ without the long shadow of sarcasm passing over the conversation,’ wrote Guy Browning, humorist and film director, in The Guardian in 2007. But this year I was surprised during trips to London to hear the refrain, ‘Have a lovely day,’ as I left a shop, restaurant, gallery, or flight.

The British have been through, and still endure, politically motivated attacks. be it from right-wing or Islamist extremists or lone wolves. This year Britain has witnessed about six attacks. The United Kingdom has not been more vulnerable in an era where technology should be keeping people safe.

I was there when two of the attacks happened, the ones at London Bridge and the Parsons Green Tube station. The atmosphere does leave a heavy air of suspicion and terror in its trail.

‘Have a lovely day’ does diffuse some of this. It makes you pause and return the greeting, something you never found time to do in London as the entire rhythm of the place prides itself in its ‘efficiency.’ London is a place one longs to come back to. Its atmosphere boasts of an eclectic mix of cultures and history with a value for time that you so find so undervalued back home. Its sense of humour that borders on sarcasm and self-deprecation, ‘the comedy of futility.’

British humour finds no subject off-limits and is often rendered with a deadpan expression. Londoners take pride in and often joke about showing defiance when disaster strikes. Comic relief is welcome anytime.

The safety theme

But would you welcome it in the aspect of safety? When I travelled by British Airways this September to London, I couldn’t resist a laugh when I saw the airline’s safety video.

One is so used to hearing the word ‘safety’ on the flight and one scarcely pays attention to it. Safety videos as entertaining shorts started garnering interest only a couple of years ago, courtesy Air New Zealand, Air France and others. This safety video released by BA in conjunction with Comic Relief in September will pique passenger interest for the casting coup, aside from their content. They range from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Ian Mckellen, Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent and many other stars.

For many a nervous traveller, this safety video is a welcome distraction. Dollops of dry British humour are scattered like fairy dust to make passengers understand that safety is a priority.

Over six minutes in duration, the video entertains you while informing you of BA’s safety procedures. Minimal props are used, witty lines are spoken, and the deadpan delivery by the actors makes you smile. The setting is an audition and various A-listers line up to try out for a role in this video.

The audition is conducted by comedian Asim Chaudhary, who replays his part of Chabuddy G from the Bafta winning BBC series, ‘People Just Do Nothing’.

Chabuddy G auditions these icons to demonstrate how to wear a safety belt, how to place a tray table, how to be in a brace position, how to inflate the life jacket, how to find the emergency exits, and much more. He keeps the humour quotient up with his telling remarks.

To Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor, it’s his ‘big break’, to Thandie Newton, ‘let’s hang out,’ to chef Gordon Ramsay, ‘you’re reading Joanne Lumley’s lines’… he carries on with the other stars as well. Bear in mind there’s a surprise cameo at the end of the video by one of the world’s favourite characters clumsily looking for money to make a donation to the airline’s flying start initiative done in collaboration with Comic Relief.

Alex Cruz, BA’s chairman and CEO, said: “We’ve worked with Comic Relief since 2010 and our customers have already helped us generate £16.5 million for great causes. We hope the new video will enable us to exceed our goal of raising £20 million.”

This video makes you brush off the dust of the negative stories that have bogged down the airline in recent times. Criticism did arise as to how BA paid these celebrities for the video, but the airline’s spokesperson said all of them shared an established relationship with Comic Relief.

And as I bid goodbye to the British Airways crew, they cheerfully responded, ‘Have a lovely day.’

menonlatha2@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 4:46:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-lovely-and-safe-day-in-london/article19897521.ece

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