Or maybe that should be, “when do we forget?” or, “When do we let it lie?”

I was thinking about the Saatchi ad agency, and how all decent people in Britain despised them throughout the eighties and nineties, because of their work in getting the Tories into power, and keeping them there.

You may remember how, just a year or two ago, Iain Banks admirably refused to go to some awards ceremony or other, because it was being held at the Saatchi gallery. “Words matter,” said the writer, correctly[1].

Indeed, it was that phrase that started this whole train of thought. On leaving work I noticed what I thought was one of the many casual misspellings that haunt our public spaces. In this case it was on a London Borough of Merton electronic noticeboard by Wimbledon station. “Run with the Wimbledon Windmilers”, it said, and I wondered whether it was a pun on the distance they run. Wimbledon has a windmill, though, and I somehow doubted that members of an athletic organisation would be that keen on wordplay. A quick websearch showed me that I was wrong, though.

Indeed, I imagined a literate member of the organisation complaining about it to their colleagues, and being told, “It doesn’t matter: it’s only a word”.

But it’s their name. And names matter. Words matter (the fact that I was mistaken, and there was no misspelling doesn’t matter, for the sake of this argument).

So when should we let the Saatchis — or at least their name — back into polite society? It’s hard to say; and not an immediately pressing matter, as I have no particular desire to visit their gallery, nor a need for an ad agency.

It’s not like that first time I bought South African wine after apartheid ended. That was both difficult, and positive. Difficult because I had developed such an ingrained reaction against South African goods; and positive because I could feel I was supporting the new regime.

That, of course, was several orders of magnitude more significant than the doings of a seedy little political party and their advertising lapdogs (hmm, I wonder whether the lapdog relationship was actually the other way round?)

I suppose, though, if it comes to making the decision, I should ask myself, “What would Iain Banks do?”

[1] Though I have to admit to doubting my memory when I find that Google can find no record of this event, either on the web or on Usenet. And, as I always say, if Google can’t find it, it’s probably not there.