CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. What we'll lose if we reject Labour (Independent)

Johann Hari says that a vote against Labour would be a betrayal of the party that gave us higher public spending, the minimum wage, tax credits and civil partnerships. Tactical voting by the anti-Tory majority could deny David Cameron outright victory and pave the way for electoral reform.

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2. The last Brown and Cameron battle could be yet to come (Guardian)

If Labour comes a decent second in the popular vote and even wins the largest number of seats, Gordon Brown will stay put in Downing Street and call the Lib Dems' bluff, says Seumas Milne. The Prime Minister is even expected to offer a referendum on full proportional representation.

3. Unsure how to vote? My contortions may help (Times)

David Aaronovitch argues that while Britain needs a new prime minister, the country also needs a Labour Party that can still be the best hope for social justice at home and progress abroad. Voters should choose Labour over the opportunistic and self-interested Liberal Democrats.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Reform the euro or bin it (Guardian)

The Greek financial crisis has put the very survival of the euro at risk, says Joseph Stiglitz. Europe must implement the institutional reforms that should have been made when the currency was launched.

5. BP is drilling itself into deep water (Financial Times)

The BP Gulf of Mexico disaster is an example of the safety and environmental dangers that it and other oil companies face by drilling in such difficult spots, writes John Gapper.

6. Back the person, not the party (Independent)

Voters should support the candidate most likely to raise the quality of the House of Commons, says Andreas Whittam Smith. That means ruling out expenses cheats as well as timeservers.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. Call in the IMF to tell us how bad it really is (Times)

If the Conservatives win tomorrow, they should turn to the IMF to lay out a plan that the government can present as the Authorised Version, writes Camilla Cavendish.

8. The fantastical dream of a united Korea (Financial Times)

Polls may suggest that half of all South Koreans wish for national reunification, but North Koreans rarely receive a warm welcome when they enter the country, says David Pilling.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

9. My moment is yours, Balls (Guardian)

Ed Balls should not despair if he loses his seat tonight, says Michael Portillo. Life is better outside Westminster.

10. A bracing reminder of the price we pay for political freedom (Daily Telegraph)

Benedict Brogan reflects on a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and recalls that the greatest duty of the nation and its politicians is to remember the cost of freedom.

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt