David Browning asks:

Was it by accident or design that you created such bathos by the juxtaposition of your “natural” disasters reports with ads for cars, intercontinental travel, rescue spray, perfume, anoraks, biscuits and bathing products?

To answer this question, we need to look not just at the article under discussion, but at the advertisements throughout last week’s edition of the Weekend magazine. The Weekend editorial team don’t get to choose who places an advertisement with them! But they may have some control over the specific placement of those advertisements. If the advertisements placed next to the natural disasters story were anomalously bathetic, then we can assume that they were put there deliberately; but if they’re representative of the advertisements as a whole, then this is less likely.

The advertisements in last week’s Weekend were for:

  • 7 different holiday destinations (Cyprus, Canada, the Cotswolds, Norway, Tuscany, Croatia, guided tours to various European cities)
  • 6 different items or retailers of clothing (four general, two for outdoors use)
  • 5 different cars
  • 3 different perfumes
  • 2 different food products (soy sauce, daisy-shaped wafers)
  • 2 different house extension companies (glass conservatories, loft conversions)
  • 2 different charities
  • A music system
  • Olympic tickets
  • Designer wallpaper and paint
  • Leather sofas
  • A street photography course
  • Mouth spray
  • A camera
  • Bespoke home interiors
  • A weight loss programme
  • Bathing products

With the possible exception of the charities, it seems fair to assume that David would have found bathos in the juxtaposition of the natural disasters article with any of the advertisements above! So it’s unlikely to have been a deliberate placement policy on the part of the Weekend editorial team – it’s simply an inevitable result of the nature of advertising and consumer goods.

Elizabeth Funge asks:

Should we assume that all of us who agreed with Rebecca Asher (Call This Progress?, 2 April) were just too busy or tired to write in last week?

No: this may be the case for some readers who agreed with Asher, but it’s likely that many more were simply not moved to write in to the Letters page. It would be unusual if only the extremely busy and tired were to agree with her – particularly since the less busy and less tired are more likely to have had time to read the article.

Alasdair McKee asks:

Do the cruel but brilliant satirists behind the Weekenders’ characters ever perform live?

Oh dear – unfortunately for Alasdair, he’s misunderstood the “Weekender” feature. It profiles a variety of real Guardian readers, not actors or satirists at all! They’re therefore very unlikely to perform live. Some of them do give details of where they like to spend their weekends, if Alasdair wants to seek out a glimpse of them in real life… but that might be  a rather creepy thing to do!

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