Thursday 24th March 2016, I was driving one of the little buses from Mousehole to Penzance and filled the bus up at the stop at Newlyn Bridge. It was a pleasant day but people got on with things on their mind like any other day. As I set off to leave I noticed that Jelbert’s Ice Cream shop had opened for business (it closes for the winter months) and already there was a queue forming outside. “Yay! Jelbert’s is open!” I shouted and the passengers (with the exception of a few tourists who wondered what was going on….’do Cornish bus drivers actually engage with their passengers?’) all forgot what they were thinking about and cheered along with me. That was it….the end of winter!
This poem is all about CHOICE…exemplified by this piece of classic cinema footage from the film DIRTY HARRY.
THE BRAIN FREEZE OF CHOICE (JELBERT’S ICE CREAM)
The sigh of relief at winter’s end
Is a given in temperate climes.
As we keenly count the harbingers –
Ones that signify sunnier times.
The confirmation that winter’s done
Is a story the flowers foretell;
But long before the May Horns are blown
There’s one marker we all know so well.
No cuckoo this with its trademark song,
No rhododendrons peerless display,
No bluebell swathe or gambolling lambs –
It’s not a pastoral scene per se.
If nightingales sang in Regent Square
My heart couldn’t feel any gladder.
Jelbert’s ice cream shop is open but
It’s harder to spot than an adder.
The shop itself does its best to hide;
Pays no homage to bygone summers
Or decks itself out in candy stripes;
It sort of resembles…a plumber’s…
So if tourists can’t find it, well tough!
Less for them means it leaves us with more.
The only thing that we can’t disguise
Is the queue coming out of the door.
And what of the product itself then?
Essentially vanilla ice cream.
Which seems to be doing quite nicely
Without need of a marketing team.
Ad men from Madison Avenue
Would dive frothing from their glassy towers;
Perplexed by Jelbert’s achievements
Without need of their well-paid man hours.
No expense is spent on the signage –
Low overheads reflect in the price.
A steady hand with a black marker
On re-cycled cardboard will suffice.
No adverts…no website…no Facebook
A nod’s as good as a wink, nudge, nudge.
Everything’s left to word of mouth
And the mouth is the ultimate judge.
No choice other than how much you want.
It’s the only decision to make.
Yes you can add the odd extra
Like a dollop of cream or a flake.
It’s a lesson in understatement
Constant as the firmament twinkles.
The burden of choice removed for all
They don’t even offer you sprinkles.
Let me take you to another place
Where every flavour is at hand.
You’ve got the freedom of choice you’re craving
But indecisiveness takes command.
Your mind does its best to decide from
The multiple flavours of ices.
The upshot is that you find yourself
In a state of choice paralysis.
You’re Buridan’s hungry donkey placed
Equally between two bales of grass.
Starved because you can’t make up your mind.
How could a donkey be such an ass?
Maybe that Henry Ford knew something
When he produced those first Model Ts.
Any colour…just as long as it’s black;
The world’s not ready for novelties.
So when at last you’ve made up your mind
And plumped for the Chocolate Brownie;
The doubts creep in about Mint Choc Chip
Or the Orange and Marscapone.
Then you get a lick off someone else
And wish that was the one you’d chosen.
So, ‘conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know’
‘Let it go!’ like Elsa in Frozen.
You’re pistachio green with envy
As you ogle someone’s Eton Mess.
How could provision of such a range
Leave you feeling in need of redress?
You were given choice and you blew it
To pick the best was clearly your aim.
If failure is of your own making
Then you have nobody else to blame.
To maximise our experience
We research and review to excess
But expectations are so built up
Indifference rules nonetheless.
It seems it was all so much better
Before our world was categorised.
We still had the opportunity
To find ourselves pleasantly surprised.
Let’s all embrace spontaneity
It may give cause for celebration
Perhaps the secret to happiness
Is to lower our expectations.
So when tourists spy a queue that snakes
Out from an unremarkable shop…
Curiosity piqued, so much so
That it brings them to an unplanned stop
“This must be something special” they say,
“What on earth could be the attraction?”
They’re in, they’re out; no need to do more
Than complete a simple transaction.
Re-tasting their childhood memories
They bask in that glow of nostalgia.
Where the only downside might just be
That ice cream brain freeze neuralgia.
Hooray for the wonder of Jelberts
Cornwall’s finest ice cream, I would bet.
No-one goes away disappointed.
Their expectations have all been met.
But for me their secret of success
Comes from NOT producing more lines.
Imagine how long that queue would be
If we all had to make up our minds.
© gray lightfoot
Hear Gray read the poem here…
The appropriately name ONLY ONE FLAVOUR by TV SMITH
A video that inspired my thoughts about Jelberts by Prof. Barry Schwartz…quite funny and worth a watch…
“Freedom of Choice is what you got!
Freedom from Choice is what you want!”
DEVO (a band I had the pleasure of seeing when they toured here in the early eighties)