What will they say of Britain, those that come after us in some long-distant future? When the institutions we today hold sacred are no more than words upon a page, our history, architecture and culture no more than footnotes, what will there be that speaks of Britain?
There is something. There is something that represents this country better than any person, or any idea. It is bold and uncompromising, steadfast and sure. In an ever-changing world it is one true constant.
It is Magna Carta in a pot-bellied jar. It is Marmite.
It lurks in the nation’s kitchen cupboard psyche, starless and Bible black. And for a humble condiment it manages perfectly to express everything we know and love about Britain and the British.
In a world of beige it is a decidedly binary substance. You either love Marmite or you hate it; there is no in-between. There is a jar sitting not more than six yards from where I sit as I write. To me it is the purest ambrosia; my wife treats it as one would a vial of Polonium 210.
It is traditional yet relevant. Look at the jar, that comforting, maternal pot. No fancy 21st century re-branding exercises here, thank you very much. It is the trigger for memories. Grasp the top, twist it off and inhale. Take in a pungent lungful of childhood picnics, of rainy-day lay-by sandwiches, of morning hangover remedy toast.
Plunge a knife in and pull out the silken ooze. Watch as it dances on the bread, threads of black against the grain. And taste. Feel the bitterness subside into deep, meaty, yielding, fulfilment.
It has a final party trick to play; that most British of qualities – strength in depth. When you think there’s nothing more to come, when the jar’s apparent emptiness taunts you, do not fear. An angled finger reveals hidden reserves. You just need to know how to call upon them.
All that we know of Britain could be cruelly snatched from us in a heartbeat. Governments could tumble. The Ravens could leave the Tower. The seas may rise.
But with a pot of Marmite to hand we could face all odds. And, if the oceans do get a little restless, at least we’d have something with which to waterproof our dinghy.