Little Britain's chief weight watcher Marjorie Dawes is occupied with its calorie content. Lyra's world in Philip Pullman's trilogy depends upon it. Putting your face in it suggests grovelling. The presence of it in your home evokes a lack of cleaning prowess. On the London underground it consists, allegedly, mainly of human skin. From it the Bible tells us we were formed.
And so we, followers of one who once wrote in it whilst being asked to judge adulterous behaviour, place a mark of it on our foreheads at the start of the key period of Christian penitence. Until earthly passions turn to it we must live with the weight that we are from it and to it we will return, golden, back to the garden.