He began queuing at 4am.
The staff hadn’t even switched on the fryers; a patty wouldn’t hit the heat for another seven hours but no matter, he would be the first man to sink his teeth into a Five Guys bacon cheeseburger on UK soil. Just imagine, he must have thought, as the grease oozed between his teeth and yellow cheese strings cobwebbed his chin, what my grandchildren will say!
Five Guys, the Washington-based fast-food chain, reputed to be the home of Barack Obama’s favourite burger, opened its first UK outpost in Covent Garden on Thursday to a queue which extended around the block by 11am. It stretched almost as far as another American burger Mecca, Shake Shack, which opened its UK flagship, 300m down the road, a day later, to similar scenes.
Waiting on a pavement for cajun fries before breakfast must, surely, be the peak of a foodie hysteria which began in more innocent times with Delia Smith causing a run on cranberries at Sainsbury’s. Now food is not proper food unless you’ve earned it by doing something a bit unthinkable first. Where our ancestors foraged and fought, we put in bids on eBay for a Heston Christmas pudding in July. Or make reservations six months before we actually feel hungry. Or turn up at a no-reservations hot spot for dinner – small plates only, mind – at 5.45pm in order to beat the queue.
The queue, though, has become as much a part of the meal as dough balls before Pizza Express. Last week, I was given a “wait time” of 90 minutes for a posh hot dog. No matter that you could fly to Frankfurt and source your own sausage in that time, the fad in London is to make diners feel grateful to get a foot in the door, let alone a good feed at a civilised time.
Hype-queuing used to be something the British public did only for gadgets, fantasy novels and the Next sale. Fine, if you like that sort of thing, but I don’t, so I’ve never joined one. Waiting hours to be fed, at a fast-food outlet too, is a new kind of madness. The bubble has to burst. Only one foodstuff is worth getting up at dawn to queue for, and that’s strawberries on Centre Court tomorrow afternoon.
*** In one black-and-white shot, he fondles her leather-clad rear while staring moodily down the lens. In another she holds her designer handbag in front of her face, but not quite high enough to hide a passionate kiss from him. These are just two of the pictures the actress Sienna Miller and her fiancé, Tom Sturridge, also an actor, have posed for as part of Burberry's new Autumn/Winter 2013 advertising campaign. There is also a short film, in which the couple are shown getting dressed, whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears and embracing. Candid, "behind-the-scenes" pictures from the shoot include one in which Miller laughs behind her sunglasses at a giant camera lens which hovers in front of her face. It is all very intimate – a close-up snapshot of two famous lovers' lives.
It was not so long ago that Miller was giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. Her testimony about being chased down dark streets by the paparazzi was among the most striking of the whole affair and the Hollywood actress became a poster girl for privacy, an articulate scourge of press intrusion. The memory of it makes these photographs, which mine her real-life relationship for cash, a little distasteful. She and Sturridge might argue that this is work – while being snapped on holiday together is not – but anyone can see that there is an uncomfortable blurring of lines here. The hot trend for Autumn/Winter '13 is, clearly, having one's cake and eating it.