Dear The Marmite,
As you yourself know your product has become synonymous in the UK with the concept of pleasure vs. disgust. The black and white issue of enjoying something or wanting to toss it off a cliff could not be better encapsulated than by your products dictum: Love it. Hate it.
When trying to describe something such as a film, band or ‘bubbly’ personality the phrase ‘Marmite’ is used as linguistic shorthand to mean you either heartily appreciate them, or want to toss them off previously suggested cliff.
But of course none of this is new to you as it was after all the point of your campaign all those years ago. The complaint that you’re reading right now is in regards to this axiom and the negative consequences that come from not acknowledging that life is sometimes painted in shades of grey, but with less whips and awful prose.
I expect by now the press coverage of the events from my town have filtered down to your company. Some of the pictures from that incident have been circulating around the press as of late and I in fact took them, as it just so happens I was there during the ‘event’.
As I was on the ground during the fracas there’s probably some details that I’m privy too that may of not made it into said quality press. Specifically, who kicked it off, why exactly it all came about and the casualties of war the papers forgot to mention. As I am now a budding war journalist I don’t want to leave any details out that may misconstrue the events and as such I give you fair warning; this will be bitter, messy and needlessly detailed.
Part One – Primordial Gloop
It was a Saturday afternoon and I was in Sainsbury’s doing my monthly shopping run. As I was nearing the end of my trek through the cathedral like building of food and household essentials I came across one of those little ‘testers’ booths. An overly overt and ovoid shaped woman was handing out small scraps of bread, smeared in your yeasty spread to passing customers. I changed course and approached the booth, hoping to get a couple of samples as I adore your tarry toast topping.
“Afternoon Madam!” She squealed at me, shoving a chunk of black gunk towards my face.
I stared at her for several moments before speaking, hoping in that space of time she would realise her mistake, but no joy.
“Afternoon.” I growled gravelly in the deepest bass tone I could muster before reaching out to grab the Marmite.
“She wasn’t talking to you.” Said a voice from behind and before I could cry out in surprise or sadness, the snack was snatched away from me. The tester woman gave me an apologetic and heartfelt smile, and prepared to hand me a fresh tester.
“Puh, pah, pitoo-ey. What is this garbage?” Came that same voice from behind me. My eyes widened in anger, I could feel the blood rushing through my temples. I turned to face the obviously wrong voice and correct her. A lady in a straw hat stood before me, frantically wiping her tongue on a tissue.
“What did you say?” I demanded of the woman, my hands vibrating as I tried to stay calm.
“That.” She said, pointing at the sticky black mess she had gobbed onto the floor. “That isn’t food.”
The exuberant lady, smile somehow still firmly adhered to her chubby face, beamed at the straw bedecked strumpet before saying.
“Why it’s Marmite, madam. Surely you’ve heard of it before.”
“Firstly, my name isn’t Shirley and secondly I’ve never heard of, what do you call it, Mymitt?” The jolly jelly woman now stared nonplussed at the lady. “In fact.” Continued the lady in the straw hat, her evil eyes narrowing, evilly, “How do we even know you work here? ‘Ey? Maybe you’re some mad old woman out to poison innocent people like me and him.”
“Woah, don’t drag me into your crazy world.” I said to the bloater bearing over-bearer. “Marmite is a real thing, a bread spread.” I turned to the now nervous shop assistant and said. “And personally, I love the stuff.”
“You’re in on it too.” Hissed the hay habited harridan, slowly tiptoeing away from me.
“What? No, just lis-“
“Everybody, keep away from these people, they’re terrorists.”
“Terrorists?! Don’t you think that’s a bit extreme?”
A crowd was starting to form around us now as the lady in the straw hat shouted to all and sundry.
She jabbed an accusing finger towards me; “They’re trying to poison you with tar, this stuff they call Marmot.” She shifted her finger from me to the ground where she had spat out the salty succour. “They tried to poison me too, but I was too clever for them.”
“It’s only Marmite.” Cried out the shop assistant, panic slowly crawling across her immense face as the crowd continued to grow around us. “Everyone loves Marmite.”
“I don’t.” A voice in the crowd shouted. “It tastes like sh-”
“What’s wrong with Marmite?” Someone called out.
“I told you, it tastes like sh-“
“No it doesn’t, you’re just an idiot.” More and more voices began adding to the babbling throng. The tension in the air was stifling; it almost rivalled your product itself in its viscosity. The atmosphere started to turn sour.
It’s probably worth mentioning that the people who populate my town are known for being a little bit shirty. If there’s even a suggestion of fisty-cuffs the standard response is to run straight at the problem with your arms flailing like Popeye. As you can imagine (in fact, know, thanks to the press coverage and your dictum) lines were being drawn, the crowd was preparing to do battle.
I turned to the lady in the straw hat, her eyes aflame in bloodthirsty lust.
“Look what you’ve done.” I cried at her, just before she lamped me a good ‘un.
That petite yet painful punch became the clarion call of what has now become known as The Great Hate Debate.
Without further discussion a riot broke out in the bread section of Sainsbury’s. Baguettes were deployed as bludgeoning tools, crusty rolls the ranger’s missile of choice. In short, wheaty weapons were utilised by all.
The plump shop assistant cried out as she was buried under a basket of baps. Nobody stopped to help, nobody cared. The poor woman was now just another slightly bruised statistic of the oncoming war.
As I mentioned earlier, I became an accidental war journalist for this particular battle. This didn’t happen right away though. My first action during the fight (apart from getting knocked on my bottom) was to rapidly scurry off and hide in the baby changing room.
I leaned heavily against the locked door, listening to the battle cries of the two factions as they decimated the supermarket. I’m not a proud man and I’m fine with telling you that I weeped. This wasn’t the first riot I had been involved in thanks to the locals, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be the last.
After forty minutes or so the sounds of fighting began to fade. Cautiously I cracked open the door, poking my fizzog through the gap and taking a quick glance around.
It seemed quiet so I decided to risk it. The buildings exit was only just round the corner, so with post-haste I tiptoed towards it.
“Halt, Hater.” Came a voice nearby. Suddenly my combat experience kicked in and quicker than a heartbeat I fell to the floor, hugging my knees.
“Oh nooooo.” I sobbed. “Why meeee?”
“Wait, is that? I recognise that self-pitying whine. Oi, Lush boy.” I untangled myself from my foetal position, glancing up at the direction of the voice, wiping tears from my eyes. Slowly the girl in front of me came back into focus, but I already knew whom it was.
“Hipster girl!” I said, scrabbling to my feet. “I never thought I’d see you again.”
Nonchalantly she brushed her hair back and stared at me through her ridiculously thick black-rimmed glasses.
“Well, if we were going to see each other again, then were else would it be but in the middle of a fight? Anyway what are you doing over here? This is the Lovers quarter, Hater.”
“Lovers?” I asked excitedly.
She tutted, ironically, and started to lean towards me. It was hard to keep a smile from my face as I closed my eyes in expectation.
“What on earth are you doing?”
I opened my eyes to find she was standing a foot away from me, she hadn’t actually moved. The erogenous eyebrow raised just like I had dreamed about several times. I frowned, a gooey black mark was smeared across her forehead.
“What’s that?” I asked, jabbing at it.
“Ow! It’s the mark of a Lover.” She growled at me, her eyebrow escalating further up her head. “How do you not know this?”
“Oooh, it’s Marmite.” I said. “I love this stuff.”
I was about to go in for another dab when the Hipster chick swiped my hand away. But rather than anger, there was surprise in her eyes.
“You’re a Lover?” She asked, the admiration in her voice just managing to creep past her habitual apathy.
I tried to stand a bit prouder, placing my hands on my hips.
“Why, I don’t mean to brag bu- ‘ere what are you doing?”
“There’s no time, I can hear somebody.” She said as she stowed a small jar into one an oversized pocket. She gestured towards the main shelving area, the sounds of rustling and furtive whispering was emanating from the aisles.
“We have to get back to basecamp.” And with a quick, panicked glance over her shoulder, the Hipster Chick grabbed my arm and dragged me behind the magazine shelvs and towards a staff only door.
“Look what is going on? And why did you smear Marmite over my head?”
We approached the locked door, and very quietly the girl knocked out a rapid, complicated rhythm on the wood. It sounded like the opening lines to ‘Lowrider’, by War, a fitting song considering the situation. The door clicked open and a hand gestured us inside. Hipster Chick slipped through the gap, a brief smile flashed to the unseen person inside. I stepped towards the door, to find a hand pressed against my chest.
“I don’t know you.” The shadow growled, his voice acoustically similar to a lawnmower chewing up gravel.
“It’s fine, he’s cool.” The girl said.
The silhouette looked briefly towards my forehead before the hand removed itself from my shirt. I straightened it out and winked at him.
“Yeah, I’m cool.” I said in a voice slightly squeakier than I expected.
The dark figure turned and stomped off and I followed him inside. The door locked itself behind me.
“Look, what is actually happening around here?” I asked the girl as I followed her, our footsteps echoing around the bare brick corridor.
She stopped and turned to me, her eyebrow once more raised. “Where exactly have you been for the last,” she checked her watch, “forty five minutes?”
“Oh, not because of any, you know, tummy trouble. I was hiding.”
“Ok… Y’know what, I’m not sure this was such a good idea now.”
“What? What’s not a good idea? I don’t even know what’s going on.”
“Shut up and come with me, I need to report my findings to the chief. I’ll fill you in on the details afterwards.”
We had reached the end of corridor and came upon another door. Just as the Hispter Chick was about to open it she turned and looked at me.
“Hmm, although maybe you could be of some use to us.” She pushed heavily on the door.
I walked into what had been in a previous life (less than an hour before) the staff break room. Now though it’s function had completely changed. I stood in the entrance, shocked at what I saw.
There were a good thirty people filling the room. Some of them were causalities of the war, groaning weakly as an elderly woman dressed in a St. John’s Ambulance uniform dashed between them, assisted by the break room’s meagre first aid box. Others were perched on edges of chairs, faces smeared with Marmite in patterns similar to those used by the SAS, smoking gitans and staring blankly into space. Somebody even had a harmonica, their mournful melody adding to the already sorrowful atmosphere.
The Hipster Chick turned to see what was taking me so long.
“Oh, don’t worry.” She said cheerily. “There are more of us.”
“That wasn’t my conce-“
“Move, move, make space, WE’VE GOT A CASUALTY!”
I leapt back as the St. John’s woman hurried past me, rolling up her sleeves as she approached the new patient. She looked up at the middle-aged businessman carrying him.
“The fusilliers, they ambushed us in the world food aisle.” Gulped out the injured man’s friend. “Look, can I put him down? He’s a right fat ba-“
“Over here, put him down, gently, gently. Alright, let’s see what the damage is.”
The medic peeled back the youths lank long fringe, frowning at his pasta peppered face.
“Hmmm, this shouldn’t be too bad. I just need to soak his face in warm water to shift the conchiglie.” She turned to the businessman, who was bent double, trying to catch his breath. She patted him gently on the back “You did the right thing bringing him back here. Don’t worry, he’s gonna be ok.”
She turned back to the youth and sighed heavily to herself. “Although I’ll doubt he’ll ever eat lasagne again.”
I was dragged away by the Hipster Chick into the next corridor.
“Come on, we’ve no time for sightseeing. Besides, you’ll see a lot worse before this is all over.”
“Before what is over? Please, Hipster, just tell me what madness has happened here.”
She turned to me, frowning.
“It’s, er, not for me to say, I’ll leave that to the Chief.” She turned away and continued walking down the corridor. I scurried after her.
“And besides,” she called over her shoulder. “I have a name you know.”