There are certain film images that stay with you forever. A white dress billowing up as a sex symbol stands over a grate. A terrifying dwarf spinning round with a knife in her hand. Sudden uncertainty on the face of a graduate as the bus moves off with a stolen bride in the next seat. Two men in drag, hiding from the Chicago mob, playing syncopated jazz.
For me, it's the moment in WALL.E when the robot first sees humans: obese, in giant romper suits, moving slowly about on flying recliners and communicating by video screen.
Yes, forget the great comedies, horror films and rite-of-passage classics; I'm haunted by an image from a Disney cartoon. It is a powerful image, though: a hard-hitting chunk of visual satire, uncomfortably close to reality. It flashes into my head at least three times a week. And not just when I'm looking in the mirror.
Last week, I got the flashes on consecutive days. The first was when I read that sales of marmalade have slumped (only 7% of people now have it for breakfast), due to changes in the national palate. We can't stomach its bitter flavour any more, nor its chunks of orange peel. Premier Foods, which owns the Golden Shred, Frank Cooper and Rose's brands, is fighting against the slump by launching a "new sweet squeezy marmalade without any bits".
In other words, jam. If it's not bitter and doesn't have bits in it, it's not marmalade. You might just as well say that chocolate is a "new sweet brown vegetable without leaves".
But marmalade isn't that bitter.
It's not like taking medicine. It's still a treat. It's still a sweet thing on toast, reverberating with simple carbohydrates.
When I was a child, we'd have it in the morning as a special privilege if it was someone's birthday.
A marmalade recipe has four ingredients. Using the great Delia's figures: four pints of water, a squeeze of lemon juice, 2lbs oranges and 4lbs granulated sugar. The sugar content is double the fruit content – and fruit's full of sugar anyway. How American, how infantilised, how unhealthy has the British palate become, if that's still not sugary enough for us?
The change is driven by the rise of processed food with all its hidden salts and sweeteners. Everything we eat has had to be sugared up accordingly or we can't stomach it. My brother, who's engaged in a lifelong row with Pizza Express about its culinary decline, fumes in his annoyingly successful new food memoir How to Eat Out (imagine Toast written by a darker, angrier, more Jewish Nigel Slater) that "the tomato sauce base for the pizza is now so jammy, you could spread it on a muffin and call it breakfast".
(By the way, if you can imagine a darker, angrier, more Jewish Nigel Slater, well done. I don't have an iPhone but, if I did, that would be my opening gambit on Draw Something.)
WALL.E visions loom as I imagine our British faces 10 years from now, spherical like beach balls, gurning in distaste at the insufficient hit from 4lbs of granulated sugar, shuddering so hard that our fleshy folds are still aquiver two hours later, long after our bloated fingers have reached for the Nutella, slathered it on to a doughnut and crammed that down instead. (When I say "our" and "10 years from now", I basically mean "my" and "this morning, in my kitchen".)
With the melting of muscle into flab that this desperate sugar craving will inevitably cause, how will we even be able to stagger across the room and operate the toaster?
Well, hold on to your hats because my second WALL.E moment came on Friday, when news broke that the Aga iTotal Control has gone on sale. It's a three-oven contraption, for roasting, baking and simmering, which can be operated by text message. Or, of course, by app. (No use to me since, as you know, I don't have an iPhone. If I did, I could now challenge you to draw a Jewish Nigel Slater while simultaneously remote-baking myself a plum cake. God knows why I haven't got one.)
But this combination of little news stories bodes very ill indeed. Have we lost any appetite for challenge at all? How on earth are we going to climb mountains and win gold medals if we can't even chew orange peel or flick switches?
I try to tell myself that people were once similarly spooked by electric light instead of candle-snuffing, cars instead of horses, refrigeration instead of visiting the butcher daily or strangling your own rabbit. Perhaps we have always been blinded to the miracles of development by dumb fear of things being "too easy" and therefore "bad for us".
But then again, have we been wrong? If there were no cars, fridges or electric lights then our crinolines would still be catching fire from falling candles – but at least we'd still be fit enough to sprint to the well and put ourselves out.
Listening banks? Don't bet on it
Banking complaints rose to a record 1.2m in the past 12 months, it is reported.
This may be because customers feel generally anti-bank, mistaking the poor sods in their local branch for the big gamblers on eye-watering bonuses, but lord knows, the banks don't help themselves.
I called my bank last week to order some statements, which they said would take seven-10 working days to arrive (so 13-18, due to the long bank holiday). I offered to pay for recorded delivery; they said this was impossible. They could only use normal, second-class post. I offered to pay for a first-class stamp; no dice. I couldn't pay anything, they said, to get the statements faster.
"Fair enough," I sighed. "I'll wait the fortnight then."
"I'll start the process now," said the lady in the call centre. "And that'll be £5 for the service."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012