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08/27/2001 Archived Entry: "Strawberries"
Been busy being a strawberry for the last three days.
Okay, I'm not going to leave you hanging like that. On Thursday I got a phone call from a friend just as I was going off for my first driving lesson (it went well), about some undisclosed job that I might be interested in from Friday to Sunday. I called him back and discovered that this job was part of the new Volvic 'there's something in the water' water marketing campaign to publicise its new fruit flavoured water; if I so choosed, I would have to dress up as a big fruit from 10AM to 5PM for three days for a not inconsiderable (to me) amount of money.
After a bit of hemming and hawing on my part about the relative silliness and possible embarrasment of being a big fruit weighed against the money, I agreed to do it - after all, no-one would be able to see my face in the fruit, right?
So there I found myself with three other friends on the train to Liverpool on Friday morning, making nervous jokes about there being things in the water, etcetera etcetera. At that point it dawned upon me that I was embarking on perhaps the most dangerous job in existance. You see, whether or not it's true, most people in the UK and around the world think that Liverpool is a damned dangerous place to be. Therefore, dressing up as a big fruit in Liverpool - making yourself a target - is simply insane.
Anyway, we got to the meeting point and loitered for a bit. What would be happening is that there would be about half a dozen 'taster girls' who would hand out free bottles of the flavoured Volvic water, maybe three or four 'small' fruit whose arms and heads would poke out of their small fruit suits, and four 'big' fruit who would be wearing suits of such great size that they would encompass both the head and the arms of the wearer. I was one of the big fruits - a strawberry, in fact.
After getting dressed and discovering that being inside a fruit is akin to being in solitary confinement (you can only see through a small fuzzy grille in the face of the fruit) we were led to the places where we basically had to walk and stand around and attract attention. If you live in Liverpool, then our two sites were near the big bus stop and at the street in between Marks and Spencers and George Henry Lee.
It wasn't too bad for the first few minutes, but then the little kids (or 'bastards' as they were affectionately termed) came along, like a horde of Visigoths. See, we'd chosen pretty terrible places to set up stalls and it meant that there were a lot of the kids loitering around and hassling the poor big fruit by pushing them about and so on. I've been reliably informed that I didn't have the worst of it by far - one of my friends had some of the water flung at him through the grille by some teenagers (it was a pretty original attack, mind you).
Still, I wasn't too happy either. It's times like these when you realise that all kids are complete scum - at least the ones we saw in Liverpool. Their parents aren't much better, sometimes; I had this ten year old pushing me about once while his mum was laughing along. I had half a mind to throw the strawberry costume off, floor the kid and throw his mum through the nearby shop window, then set fire to them all, laughing maniacally. Of course, I didn't, but the sentiment was there.
Eventually the first day was over and we all retreated back home, dispirited and wholly exhausted.
Luckily, the second day was much better since we moved to a safer part of Liverpool and spent the first half hour parading through the streets and doing a bit of fruit-dancing. This dancing had to be done for a video the marketing guys were making for the people back at Volvic and unfortunately most of the shots were a write-off; the first sequence they shot was done in front of an Ann Summers shop, which wasn't ideal. The second sequence had us merrily dancing along to some Beatles music that was playing in the background from some old guy with puppets, and just as it was going swimmingly well, some bloke walks in front of the picture with a bottle, takes a swig and then nods satisfactorily to himself - sounds ideal, right? It also sounds like a big setup!
The final sequence which didn't go so well had a guy talking to one of the sample girls earnestly, then peer at the label of the bottle, shake his head and hand the bottle back to the girl. Oh well.
I have to admit that Saturday wasn't too bad since I got photoed with a fair few tourists that day and had a nice walk around the funfair in the strawberry suit.
Amount of work done on Saturday: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Sunday was even more of an improvement. We all met up at 10AM and pronounced that the streets were far too empty to start work and then fled off to a nearby café. When, at 10:30AM, it was decided we should get dressed, the big fruit made an insightful suggestion that the small fruit (all girls) should get changed first, since they took longer. We then masterfully distracted the supervisor by telling her that chocolate was for sale at the café. All in all, we managed to delay getting dressed until 11AM, then loitered around Mathew Street (the 'Beatles' part of Liverpool) having our photos taken with Japanese tourists and trying to avoid getting run over by cars. By 12PM we decided to have a break and despite our most vehement protestations, we weren't allowed to get back into our suits again at 12:40PM because all the water had run out.
Amount of work done on Sunday: 1 hour.
Considering that we got paid by the day, it wasn't a bad deal at all.
So really, the moral of the story is that being a fruit isn't necessarily a bad thing, provided that you do so in the safer parts of Liverpool.