Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

About once every six months I drive to a house to pick up a box of six sealed tubs of aloe vera juice. These tubs are not, I hasten to add, for your do or die low life correspondent. No doubt I have lost enough credibility already with last week's cake forks. If I confessed to trying to prolong my low life by taking top spec aloe vera juice, it would probably and rightly be the end.

For this is what the advertising pamphlets of this pyramid selling company brand hints at. Without actually coming out and wildly promising it, the subtle impression created by the PR firm responsible for these pamphlets is that drinking the stuff will energise and lengthen your life. It will also grant you serenity of mind. The cost of a single tub would, I'd guess, keep a small rural African village in manioc root for about a year. But let's not even begin to think about the implications of this in case it disturbs our serenity before we've even got the lid off.

Last year I saw a pamphlet showing photographs of a few hundred of these pyramid sellers at a get-together. Every one of them looked well dressed and well groomed, and their smooth and happy faces suggested that thanks to aloe vera they had not only achieved health, wealth and happiness but they had also found the key to eternal life.

Every so often I am delegated to go and pick up a box of six on behalf of aged relatives who club together to buy one, but are too physically feeble to be able to lift it and carry it out to the car. (They are strangely silent as they distribute the tubs among themselves, as though it were a bit of a guilty secret. ) And you should see this house where I make the collection. It's a stunning, brand-new, million pound, open-plan, air-tight, oak-and-glass show home. Whenever I've been, there hasn't been anything visible that isn't neat or tidy or immaculate. It is as though the place has to be ready at short notice for photographers. I have never seen a newspaper lying about, for example. Nor a used teabag on the draining board.

Either would be a kind of catastrophe. Even the sawn ends of the few logs stacked beside the cold and pristine log burner have been carefully chosen for their matching shade of yellow and their perfect circularity. …

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