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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, March 25, 2007
    Just a stinking cover up
    Just what I needed at the end of this knackering Sunday - arriving in time to save you, dear reader, from what would probably have been a set of pompous reactionary ponderings on this weekend's slave trade celebrations, sorry, commemorations - an email from a grown man who calls himself the Bookplate Junkie because, yes indeed, he's addicted to collecting bookplates.

    This one is a beauty. A promotional item for a company trading, let's be frank, the city's human waste. Bookplate Junkie read my very educational blog of June 2005 in which I shared the information that the fertile soil of the East Lancashire farmlands owes its richness to the fact that it was fertilised by Liverpool manure - human and street waste brought up the Leeds-Liverpool canal to Burscough's Manure Wharf.

    Must have been a very smelly process, a very mucky business, this triangular trade in which canny industrialists shifted the shit of Liverpool across the Mersey to Wallasey (for what, processing, packaging, quality control?) and from there up the canal to the farms of East Lancs, who in turn returned to the denizens of our city all manner of well-fertilized foodstuffs, starting the whole ingestive-industrial process over again.

    A smelly process, a mucky business, but probably quite lucrative, given the high quality of our city's spilth. So, marvel with me at how the manure entrepeneurs chose to portray their product. There's no connection in reality between that picture and the business it's selling, the refined young woman playing a genteel tune, emerging from a context-free mist. If she was a scratch-and-sniff pic I bet she'd smell of roses. I guess the Victorian admen felt that any picture which portrayed the fetid truth of their festering business would not appeal to their potential customers. And fair enough, if you're going to choose between two freebie blotters then you're going to go for the violinist in the peach dress over the pile of poo, every time.

    Now, it may be possible to draw out parallels between this illustration and today's window-dressing of the slave trade in a city still blighted by racial segregation (just look at the employment stats), but I thought I'd avoid that. It would, after all, be in very bad taste.