Ah, I see we’re at the “politicising soup” part of the lockdown discourse. That’s good. We’re ahead of schedule: I thought it would be weeks before I would read bizarre puff pieces about the restorative powers of broth in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that the NHS is desperately firefighting with actual medicine, but no. I was naive, and wrong, and now “Boris Broth” is here, conjuring up images of Boris Johnson poaching pinkly in a hot bath before ladling the water off into a stockpot, and ruining my lockdown for ever.
What is Boris Broth? Well, at its core, it’s just well-intentioned chicken and vegetable soup, distributed to NHS key workers by the newly formed Yorkshire-based food charity Food4Heroes. “Just like Boris, it’s invigorating, it’s robust and it’ll put colour in your cheeks,” F4H co-founder Mandy Guest told the Telegraph. And yes, I wish she hadn’t said “colour in your cheeks” either, because “Boris Broth” already sounds like the sort of restorative portions the PM has been spaffing around town for many years now. “It’s a sustaining tonic for those in good health and a restorative for those recovering from illness,” she continued. Again, this just looks like a 2am text message our prime minister might send to someone else’s girlfriend. This does not sound like an advertisement for soup.
But then, we’ve been waiting for something like this: quarantine, for many, inspires nostalgia for the aftermath of a long-ago war, and there’s a very real feeling among a certain subsection of the British public (a sort of sturdy-fingernailed middle class I am nominally labelling Kirstie Allsopp Ultras) that thinks that actually, rationing and queueing at the butcher’s and eating leeks all the time and darning our own jumpers for four years would be a nice lark – and Boris Broth fits neatly into that.
Anyway, here’s William Sitwell in the Telegraph, taking time out from his busy schedule of rolling up to vegan squats in a hazmat suit to drag the residents out into the streets and force-feed them bacon, who thinks this Boris Broth stuff is the 2020 equivalent of the wartime Woolton pie. “We have better and more ingredients than [Lord Woolton] could have dreamt of,” Sitwell wrote this week, “so, armed with a bowl of Boris Broth, we, the NHS staff and, indeed, the prime minister, can fight this enemy of the 21st century.” Please, sir, may I have 13 ounces of sugar this week? I’ve been especially, awfully good!
Maybe we should just have a war after this. But only draft the weird 45- to 60-year-olds who want it. They can mortgage their houses and chip in for a munitions slush fund, and allotment out their gardens, and turn all the electric lights off in their houses at night and sleep in helmets; and I can live the normal life I want to, where I’m allowed to buy crates of Heineken from the supermarket and go to overpriced burger bars in east London and lie down in parks without being arrested. And everyone can be happy, finally, everyone can be free.
Let’s all clap for Ben Fogle and his awful ideas
We never really question how Ben Fogle managed to wiggle his way into such a key position within British celebrity, do we? I think at some point we should: he was on Castaway 2000, the very doomed BBC show that stranded 36 people on an island for a year for no reason, and somehow footage of him greyly crying in that got him regular gigs doing Countryfile and rowing a lot, and now he’s just there, constantly Fogling, and we never interrogate it. Nobody but Ben Fogle could ascend to the position of Ben Fogle by taking the bizarre, winding route that Ben Fogle took to get there.
Latest on Fogle, anyway: he wants to harness the energy of the rapidly-getting-tedious-now NHS clap (I should clarify that I participate in the NHS clap, broadly think it is good, and find myself oddly moved by it every time it happens, but the discourse around it is rapidly approaching “WHERE’S YOUR POPPY?” levels of delirium, and efforts to subvert the clap away from the NHS and on to a rapidly changing schedule of other nightly claps – a clap for Boris – now leads us down a slippery slope where the BBC has to issue clarifications on which nightly clap means what, so we can know what clap to clap or not clap for, and I do very strongly feel we should cap the clapping at: one weekly clap) and use that to make us all sing Happy Birthday to the Queen next week. You think this is a joke, don’t you? You underestimate the intrinsic Fogleness of Ben Fogle.
“It’s the Queen’s birthday next Tuesday,” he tweeted today, sincerely, though I suppose it could still be an aftershock of that LSD he inadvertently took, once, seven years ago. “Let’s throw her a surprise. At 9am 21st April, we are calling on the whole country to sing Happy Birthday from our windows and doorsteps. Let our song bring good cheer not just to Her Majesty but to the whole nation #singforthequeen.” After a fair amount of pushback Fogle pointed out that, actually, his daughter came up with it, so don’t have a go. But it was too late, and the wheels were in motion. We were, all of us, Having A Go.
I suppose, if nothing else, our time in lockdown is a good opportunity to develop one-sided feuds with our neighbours over very trite and insignificant things, and as a result I will be taking note of anyone who pops their head out around my way to sing Happy Birthday to the Queen because Ben Fogle told them to. If they even think about taking two walks a day after that, the police are getting called.
• Joel Golby is a writer for the Guardian and Vice, and the author of Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant