Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Novichock Experience

We still don't know - was it all a hoax or not?  I'm referring, obviously, to the latest bout of panic to hit the streets of Salisbury in the wake the Novichock business earlier this year.  I was there when it happened.  Sort of.  I was just leaving my Mum's house the other Sunday when we heard all the sirens screaming toward the town centre.  My initial reaction was to hope that they weren't going to a road accident on my route out of town - I didn't want to be delayed getting home.  Luckily, my route out of Salisbury never goes near the town centre, (my mother currently lives on the east side of the city), so it wasn't until I got home that I found that all the fuss had involved a couple being taken ill at a town centre restaurant.  Now, I can't deny that I felt quite smug when I saw which restaurant it was - I've never liked it simply because the premises it occupies was once Beech's Bookshop.  It was a defining feature of Salisbury when I lived there.  Sure, its musty, second hand books were overpriced and it tended toward leather bound collectible editions of dull old classics, but I did get some long out of print film books there that I've never seen anywhere else.  So, the old place held a certain sentimental value to me - seeing it turned into a faux-Italian chain restaurant was pretty upsetting.  Consequently, part of me was quite glad to see it suffer some kind of comeuppance.

But, hoax or not, (neither of the alleged victims were poisoned, it turns out, and both were quickly released from hospital), this latest incident has led to fears that the city's economy, already battered from the fall out of the two Novichock incidents, will take another hammering.  Clearly, something needs to be done to bring the visitors back to the city (tourism has always been a lucrative business for Salisbury) - and not just alleged GRU agents looking to poison people.  Ideally, what needs to be done is to actually exploit the Novichock business for the benefit of the local economy.  I've already floated the possibility of 'Tea and Terror' tours around the City, taking in the route originally followed by the Skripals on the fateful day they were poisoned.  Now, of course, it could be extended, to take in the house in Amesbury where the bloke who allegedly found the discarded bottle of nerve agent was taken ill, the hostel in Salisbury where his girlfriend who died after exposure to Novichock, lived and the bins around the back of that charity shop where he claimed to have found the bottle.  I envisage it being like those 'Ghost Tours' they do in places like York (or the 'Ripper Tours' in Whitechapel) - you could have some 'jumper outers' pretending to be GRU agents who leap out at strategic points, scaring the tourists and spraying them with (harmless) liquid from a perfume bottle.

One of the sights on the tour should be the bench which the Skripals were found slumped on, but it still hasn't been replaced.  Some budding entrepreneur needs to set up their own bench there and charge tourists twenty quid a time to have their photos taken sprawled on the bench, covered in puke in imitation of the Skripals.  Trust me: it would be a gold mine.  Bearing in mind that the Novichock used in the attack was contained in a perfume bottle, how about launching an actual perfume with the same name?  Sold exclusively in Salisbury, it could be a real money spinner in the run up to Christmas.  I mean, I've already seen the perfume ads appearing on TV, as they gear up for their traditional seasonal sales boost, when clueless blokes try to ensure getting their Christmas end away by impressing their other halves with some expensive perfume or other.  They could shoot a TV commercial for this new scent in Salisbury.  You know the sort of thing: a snatch of black and white footage of those bins where the bottle was supposedly found, with the sound of people vomiting in the background as someone whispers 'Novichock' on the sound track.  Classy and a sure fire winner.  Ultimately, what someone needs to do is create a whole 'Novichock Experience' to entertain vistors to Salisbury.  Perhaps they could have some sort of virtual reality thing which simulates the experience of being poisoned with a nerve agent for participants.  Or maybe it could be simpler - give them a dose of something in pill form that (harmlessly) simulates the effects of poisoning.  Maybe that was what happened at that restaurant the other week...



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