Things to do in Blighty when you’re dead bored

Americans were mortified by an ad inviting tourists to visit Alaska ‘before you die’ so afraid are they of the ‘D’ word. They could do with a bit of British spirit

The right to a life spent in the pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the American Constitution, which may explain why the citizens of that great country regard death as a personal affront, and quite possibly as unconstitutional.

It is a brave advertiser who fearlessly mentions the “D” word, which is why Bradley Reid & Associates took a big gamble on behalf of its client the Alaska Travel Industry Association with an invitation to visit the state “before you die”. It paid off, at least in terms of publicity. So unused are Americans to being reminded of their own mortality that the campaign attracted media coverage from coast to coast estimated to be worth as much as $15m. Not bad for a campaign that cost only $180,000.

Connie Reid, president and chief executive of Bradley Reid, says, “After years of handling the account, interacting with visitors, doing research, we kept hearing people say: ‘I’ve always dreamed about going to Alaska before I die’. So I thought what about a campaign that would get people thinking about making Alaska their destination this year, rather than next year, or the year after?” Or before they’re dead.

On this side of the Atlantic we are slightly less squeamish about death, so a similar campaign would probably have less impact. In any case it is difficult to think of places in the British Isles that one would wish to see before handing in one’s dinner pail. Cleethorpes in the Fall, or Sunset over Warrington are prospects that one could happily forfeit over several lifetimes.

In this country one would wish not to visit places before one dies but rather to do things. To hurl a brick through the big screen showing Premiership football; to throw an ostrich egg at John Prescott; to seize the arm of one of those cool metropolitan dudes who wears sunglasses in mid-winter and help him across the street.

Now that we are a post-Christian secular society, all we can contemplate is life on this side of the great divide, since few of us believe there is anything on the other side. In this we are impoverished by comparison to our devoutly religious forebears who were able unselfconsciously to contemplate the hereafter, a boundless vista more mysterious and replete with wonder than anything here on Earth.

Things to do after you die are thrilling. Imagine being able to track down Shakespeare – he would probably be reclining on a bank whereon the wild thyme blows – and ask him who the Dark Lady of the Sonnets was. And, while you have his ear, to find out what he got up to in those lost years between leaving Stratford and arriving in London.

Other mysteries could be solved once you had shuffled off this mortal coil and were free to float wherever your spirit took you. You might care to find one of the Beaker People – it could be a long search, but you have all of eternity on your side – and ask how the devil, so to speak, they humped ten-ton obelisks from Wales to Stonehenge, and why.

I suppose you would have to be around for quite a while before you could hope to have an audience with you-know-who. Granted He created the world in six days, which is some going, but that doesn’t mean He has time to answer the questions of the trillion billions of souls who have taken up residence in his dominion.

Even so, I should like to know about the biological basis of consciousness. But I suppose Descartes asked that question long ago so, on second thoughts, it might be better to go straight to him than trouble the creator.

Worldly pleasures would seem to be out of the question. I doubt that Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is served on the astral plane, though it would be good if it were because it stands to reason that hangovers do not exist in paradise.

For some Muslims it would seem that the pleasures of the flesh are still to be tasted even when the flesh has melted. How else could suicide bombers be promised 72 virgins? Speaking for myself, I should find the company of three score and 12 women, however comely, a little trying for ever and ever amen, and with no break for good behaviour. Granted, when it came to pleasuring all 72 it would be a relief to know that time was on your side. You could, of course, have two today and leave the remaining 70 for another aeon. I’m sure they’d stay fresh in such conditions.

It’s different with America’s 49th state. With global-warming in mind, one wry commentator amended the advertising slogan to read “See Alaska before it melts”.

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