The Walrus and the Carpenter reveal the new normal

by Julian Boulding

The air in our cities seems a bit cleaner. We have more time to talk. Maybe we’ll have time to make sense of all those big issues we’ve been talking about - Sustainability. Globalised supply chains. Authenticity. Populism. Climate change. Pandemics.

But my head started to spin. Lying awake at night, all I could think about was a poem, which I had never understood –

“The time has come”, the WALRUS said,

To talk of many things. 

“Of shoes and ships

And sealing wax

And cabbages and kings. 

 “And why the sea is boiling hot

And whether pigs have wings.”

And suddenly it all made sense.

WALRUS, I knew I’d heard of them somewhere. They are the people against single-use plastics. The World ALliance for Re-Use and Sustainability.

Of shoes and ships? Yes, that’s the global supply chain. The scandal of “food miles.” Making everything in China and then shipping it to Europe and the USA. Wouldn’t it be better if all we needed to get products to market was a salesperson with a good pair of shoes?

Sealing wax? OK, that’s more difficult. When I heard this poem as a child, I could not understand why ceilings would need waxing. But now I realise it’s to do with the wax which a king or queen would use to seal a letter, to guarantee that it had actually been written by them and not altered by anyone else. In other words, it’s a guarantee of authenticity. Authenticity! The holy grail of every brand.

Cabbages and kings? I’m less sure about that, but it’s probably a political reference to populism and nationalism. Of which we hear a lot, now the politicians are on TV every day.

The sea is boiling hot? Now we’re back on familiar territory. Climate change, of course! Hello friends from XR, the de-centralised grass-roots movement which has stolen the thunder of that old-fashioned, hierarchical exporter of global creative ideas, Greenpeace.

And finally, do pigs have wings? Well, we are talking zoonotics here. It’s all about how the evil viruses – swine flu, bird flu, H1N1, SARS and now Covid-19, jump from bats and birds to human, via intermediary carriers like pigs and pangolins. 

So there we are. Bone up on The Walrus and the Carpenter, written way back in 149 BC (Before Covid) by a Scholar, Lecturer and Mathematician from Oxford University.

Like Boris and Nicola, we follow the scientists.

And you’ll have a handy poetic aide memoire, for every conversation topic you are likely to need, when we are finally allowed back to marketing conferences again.

Julian Boulding is Hon. Treasurer of The Marketing Society and President of thenetworkone