Look At It This Way - November 11, 2011

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The Vox Pop is the bane of a journalist’s life. It’s short for vox populi, Latin for voice of the people, but the problem is no one really wants to talk to me.

I hit the streets again this week to talk tourism with the good burghers of Blackpool, and couldn’t have cleared the streets faster if I’d been carrying a scythe and plague-coated popcorn for the next showing of Contagion at the flicks.

By the way, do not see that film if you’re still sniffling with the office cold – one unguarded sneeze will send the popcorn scattering, from those scrambling for the cover of another seat. And I’m more bucolic than bubonic.

Having honed my winning smile to near travel-rep proportions in the manner of one trying to flog over-priced excursions to skint tourists, it became more of a whining fixed grin – akin to a synchronised swimmer who’s lost out on bronze.

I thought I’d be home and dry within an hour, tops.

Ha! Instead I found myself engaged – on the Comedy Carpet to boot – in a Benny Hill-like pursuit of tourists.

“Hello, I’m from The G....good grief you move fast.” Some of those walking frames must be turbo-charged, and I swear one shopping trolley had go-faster racing stripes where the tartan usually is.

Even the smokers were quick off the mark.

Normally, they cough up a quote while trying to suck up the last bit of nicotine. They’re usually a safe bet for a vox pop because a) they’re always outside smoking, b) they are usually chatting to fellow smokers, and c) they’re a captive audience until their fags go out.

But either ciggies or patience must be getting shorter, as I swear smokers now vanish in a puff of smoke faster than Satan would if I offered him what was left of my soul.

It cuts both ways. I take to my heels at first sight of anyone with a purposeful manner towards me.

I made the mistake of taking a closer look at one Guy Fawkes, who turned out to be a witch – and got caught up in an Horrible Histories debate with an eight-year-old.

And I felt so guilty snubbing an Army cadet selling poppies at a supermarket, I bought a big pack of Kit Kat to compensate for the reproachful look he shot me, as I scuttled past pretending I hadn’t seen him or the double glazing salesman nearby. By the time I left the cadets had cleared off – leaving me with 10 Kit Kats to scoff and add to my guilt. I thought of giving one to the salesman, but he looked more the finger of fudge type.

There are compensations. Some opinions expressed are so outrageous I’m tempted to call FIFA to act as referees.

But one elderly lady turned into Mrs Malaprop as she apologised for her rapidly-retreating husband with the words. “I’m sorry, my John doesn’t have much to say for himself. He’s the self-defacating sort...”

Laugh? I nearly wet myself....