Border Lines

Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Archive for the tag “Love Island”

Cooking for the soul in Covid isolation

It’s 4.30pm on Saturday. Earlier, we waved goodbye to all our children and grandchildren after a truly brilliant week together. The first time we’ve gathered as a full group in two years.

Beds stripped, sheets and towels on the washing conveyor belt, broken Lego binned and forgotten drawings and toys gathered up. However, our true focus is the final prep for our annual Open Garden day – it’s on Sunday: tomorrow.

There are 17 gardens around Berwick opening to raise funds to support the beautifying and upkeep of our local parks here. It’s a great occasion – all the more so because we couldn’t do it last year – full of socialising and gardening knowledge-sharing.

I get a text. Not a Love Island text calling me to the firepit – although, when I read it, it feels a bit like we’re about to go up in smoke. We’ve been exposed to coronavirus. We’re back home from the local walk-through PCR testing station by 5.30pm. I’m beginning to feel a bit coldy and achy. The Husband says he’s fine, but I think that sniff of his is suspicious.

We have cakes defrosting, the makings of 40 bacon rolls, a friend’s jam and more cakes arriving on the Sunday morning. The garden’s not perfect (it’s been a bit neglected by us and rampaged by the grandchildren in the very best of ways!) but it’s still looking good. But what if we have coronavirus?

Our garden in July – before it was wonderfully overrun with grandchildren

I take the decision to pull out of Open Gardens.

Our PCR tests come back positive on Sunday morning. We take stock of the mountain of cakes and bacon. We slump in front of the telly all day, catching up on Love Island, watching people stroll past our window in the sunshine clutching Open Gardens trail maps. We’re groggy, fluey and lethargic – and a tad sorry for ourselves. We eat cake and bacon rolls.

By Tuesday I’m not sure I can eat another piece of cake or another bacon roll (The Husband’s not so sure!). I flick listlessly through Guardian Feast Issue No.188, even though I honestly cba to keep up with my ridiculous plan to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Feast during 2021.

However Meera Sodha – angel Meera – catches my eye with her fennel and courgette pistou soup. It looks so green and healing. Just thinking about spooning it into my body makes me feel better. Plus I have courgettes growing in the garden and a total abundance of basil. Okay, so we don’t have fennel. And we can’t nip out and get any. I never quite got round to sorting home delivery from any of our local supermarkets. At the beginning of Lockdown 1 it was impossible to register, let alone place an actual order, so I gave up. I find some sad celery in the bottom of the fridge and fennel seeds in the cupboard which I decide will do.

The abundance of fridge, cupboard and garden. No fennel, but all that basil made for a delicious pistou!

I use our ‘compost bag’ plus a shrivelled carrot to make veg stock. I’m not going to say that my compromises delivered the perfect solution. Fennel is clearly a signature ingredient in this soup. Hey-ho – as I so often say – sometimes you just have to use what’s on offer.

Whatever I lacked in my store cupboard, Meera’s soup made up for in healing benevolence. The perfect food for feeding the coronavirus-ridden body and soothing the angst-ridden soul. As we slurped it down, The Husband and I gave grateful thanks that we are both double vaxed and that we are not suffering the full and awful impact of the illness that so many around the world have had to endure.

Stay safe and well. x

Original recipe:

Meera Sodha – Fennel and courgette pistou soup

Love the Island – lose the F-word

The Husband (68) and I (56) are addicted to ‘Love Island’. Our oldest children (36 & 38) are horrified. Why? Because it’s an empty format show set in the close confines of a Majorcan villa, crammed with a vapid bunch of gorgeous-bodied self obsessed 20-somethings apparently searching for ‘the one’? Maybe.

We watched 20 seconds of the first episode and reached for the remote. Anything was better than watching dull young people lying around a pool, muttering about who they fancied and how they were ‘gonna make a move’. However, spurred on by the fact that  it’s always good to have something to watch as a family (with London Daughter it was ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!’), we tried again. We were drawn in by the ultimate savagery of the show. We now watch it even when the 16-year-old is out.

The relentless focus on ‘finding someone to leave the island with’ brings out the most Darwinian tendencies in people. Partners are chosen and discarded with relentless carelessness, eyewatering disregard for other’s feelings and jaw-dropping self-justifications. Dumpers and dumpees move on to try a new squeeze faster than their sunburn peels. This is natural selection and survival of the fittest writ large – aided by viciously cruel interventions from the programme makers to stir up distrust and dissonance.

The F-word is used endlessly on the Island by everyone. Actually, it’s not just on ‘Love Island’, is it? The F-word is used everywhere by everyone.

I love words and – put in the right order – the amazing power they have to amuse, move, motivate and transform. However, some words have become so over-used they are no longer fit for purpose. They have become dull like a discarded lover rather than shiny and sparkly like a new romance. They need to be rested, allowed to fade from memory so that they can return repackaged and hot. ‘Awful’, for example, enjoys its modern definition of being pretty rubbish rather than its awe-inspiring historic status. ‘Flirt’ has metamorphosed from its original meaning of flick or sudden hit, through being a jokey jibe, before finally emerging as the amorous and playful butterfly we know today.

For those not steeped in ‘Love Island’ etiquette, contenders are periodically lined up in front of the fire-pit (why they need a fire pit in over 30-degree heat is a moot point), whilst their peers decide whether they should be ‘dumped’ from the island or allowed to stay and continue the relentless search for love.


In the spirit of my favourite TV show of the moment and its focus on natural selection I am lining up before my very own virtual fire pit over-used words for you. Dump, keep, redefine: you decide. We start, of course, with:

  1. F**k. In all its forms. For me the F-word still carries some of its original shocking dirtiness and I do look round when I hear it on the street. I have a permanent stiff neck. In truth, it has become little more than what linguistic profs call a discourse marker: like ‘like’ and ‘right’ and ‘you know’, it simply punctuates sentences in a tedious and unattractive way. Give it a rest, people, and let f**k become truly shocking again.
  •             Main offenders:                 Everyone
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        10          
  1. Iconic. Call me an iconoclast but iconic needs a rest. Where it once conjured the classic example of something so singular that it was worthy of veneration – it has become a ubiquitous descriptor of everything from toilet rolls to pop stars to make-up. This Greek-derived stone-chiselled Latin hero of our language has become plasticised with overuse.
  •             Main offenders:                 Media presenters
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        8         
  1. Brexit. Look, I know it’s happening, but I don’t want it to. Enough of the B-word.
  •             Main offenders:                 Brexiters, media presenters, remainers
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        10      
  1. CSR. An acronym to make you shudder. Linking the words ‘corporate’ ‘social’ and ‘responsibility’ does not make it a thing. No matter how much it’s printed in annual reports. How many large corporates genuinely engage in a caring and deeply sustainable way in communities? Large organisations react – clearing up messes they’ve created in the process of ‘delivering’ yet more ‘shareholder value’ (grrr: there’s another term that needs to go!); or opt for the low-maintenance high-profile hit by chucking a few quid at a local initiative in return for plenty of smiley self-aggrandising publicity. Get proactive and get an acronym that describes something genuine.
  •             Main offenders:                 Large corporations, financial reviewers
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        7        
  1. Craft. Homebrew beer or macramé paintings made in your mum’s kitchen to be sold at inflated prices. Home-made is home-made whichever way you stick the needle in.
  •             Main offenders:                 US beer-makers, advertisers, crafty people
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        8       
  1. Serendipity. Look, we all loved the word the first time we heard it. But we’re grown-ups now and know you for who you are serendipity: a strangely baseless hope in chance and coincidence that is only truly realised by those who win the Lottery. Plus, every high-street has a shop called ‘Serendipity’ mostly selling the ubiquitous ‘craft’ (see above). I rest my case – preferably where some passing stranger will fill it with crisp £50 notes.
  •             Main offenders:                 Lottery winners, crafty shop owners
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        7        
  1. Rollercoaster. ‘It’s been a rollercoaster journey’. No, it hasn’t. It’s been a football match. It’s been a slot on a reality TV show. It’s been life.
  •             Main offenders:                 Reality TV shows, sports people, theme parks
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        9        
  1. Gym. Not so much a word as a concept. I acknowledge there is a need for professional sports people to have suitable facilities and paraphernalia where they can torture their bodies in ways appropriate to their chosen sport. But everyone else: get over it, get outside and get some initiative. Lift bags of sugar and run on the pavement/verge for heaven’s sake. This is not just bitterness at the endless gym memberships I have taken out and never used. Well, it is a bit.
  •             Main offenders:                 Fitness gurus, gym owners
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        8        
  1. Feelings. As in expressing them, exploring them, talking about them… I know that Millennials are the children of Generation X, a generation that took counselling and psychoanalysis to a whole new level. But it’s time for introspection to end. In the words of that great Disney movie, ‘Frozen’: Let it go! Get outward-looking. Feel the world rather than yourself. Ahem.
  •             Main offenders:                  Psychoanalysts, therapists, snowmen
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        10       
  1. Liminal. Sigh. It’s a lovely word whose meaning is caught between one moment and the next. However, it has transitioned to the dark side: the arts world. Hence, it has become incomprehensible, lost forever in a sea of hyperbolic descriptors pertaining to a quirky camera angle, a blast of air drifting through a concrete block, a gritty installation… or perhaps a twig – that strangely potent symbol of a tree’s ability to self-perpetuate through organic growth. Blah, blah, blah.
  •             Main offenders:                 Arty types, presenters of art shows
  •             Overuse rating (/10):        7        
  1. Love. No, I’m not going to banish love. I’m not that cruel. But we had to get back to ‘Love Island’ somehow. And, let’s face it: the programme’s a f**king rollercoaster journey for those golden-bodied passion-seekers. And, despite shock and disapproval, I intend to continue enjoying my poolside seat. As Shakespeare might have written (if Raleigh had discovered the best way to eat the humble potato as well as the earthy beast itself): ‘If music be the food of love, mine’s a glass of wine, a bowl of crisps and sunny island vibes’.

Cheers! At least it’s impossible to overuse this glass-lifter of a word!


Love Island is on ITV2 weeknights and Sunday nights at 9pm.

This article is also published on Voice of the North

Post Navigation