Saturday, 20 February 2010

Off With His Head!

Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen

I haven't done an etiquette post yet.  I think everything has been covered beautifully by other bloggers but I do have a couple of Bad Manners Betes Noires

The first solecism isn't terribly common, in fact it may only have been committed once in the history of the world.  It is using your laptop on the table at a Buckingham Palace state banquet.  I happened to find myself at one such glittering occasion in honour of the Chinese Head of State and the man on my right, from the Chinese delegation, positioned his computer amongst the plates, the goldware and his share of the crystal glasses and waved away the footman in scarlet livery.  Not knowing the mandarin for 'What the fuck do you think you're doing?'  I let him get on with it whilst trying subliminally to express my disapproval. 

After he'd written his piece he got up and carried his electronic equipment towards the top table and I was agog. I imagine Her Majesty might have been too since he established a direct transit line with her tiara.  Rather disappointingly for me he stopped short, tapped one of his countrymen on the shoulder and produced his homework.  The conference over, he returned to my side ready for the dessert.  I can't say I found anything to try and talk to him about after that.  Luckily I had a real diplomat on the other side.

Now, will anybody agree with me on the next matter?  It happens at receptions.  People come round with trays of food and it strikes me that the tastier it looks, the  more determined they are you shouldn't enjoy it. Either they try to humiliate you with a neat side step towards another group just as you've stopped your conversation mid-sentence and your hand is poised to grab that crab cake; or they point their wares at you with variations on a theme of ill-grace. There's the I Suppose Somebody Ought To Eat These look, the No You Can't Have Another One look,  the I'd Have Thought You'd Be On A Diet look and the Oh For God's Sake Get On With It Whilst I Stare At The Floor look.  Ok, I wouldn't like that job either.   But there are some, I admit, who are genuinely warm and hospitable which makes the whole tedious business of small talk worthwhile.

Maybe they're embarrassed about the paper doiley?  I find the naive enthusiasm of this look rather refreshing in the scramble to find ever more modish ways to present canapés.  I have been offered little 
sausages to dip into a square glass container of mashed potato,  spoons containing mouthfuls of peking   duck arranged on banana leaves and most recently, trays made out of glazed rococo picture frames.  I am sure people can top that??


  1. a laptop at a state dinner! NO WAY. Even at the dinner or breakfast table that would be a no-no -let alone a formal occasion such as that!
    Do they use paper doilies at the palace?? that seems a bit tacky....i much prefer a clean white napkin folded to fit the tray. I am one of the rare people who LOVES the nibblies at a cocktail hour....drinking without food is generally a BAD idea.

  2. AD - maybe that's what the corgis' tea looks like?

    Vir -I did find out that he was writing his report for Beijing. I imagine the poor man was between a rock and hard place : either to be sent to repair The Great Wall or sent to The Tower. I am afraid the answer was, he should have stayed in his office. I do wonder if Beijing knew he was scribing at the Queen's table?

  3. We've had to attend a couple of horrible business dinners, and one formal dinner. The formal dinner wouldn't have been so bad, except someone hit on the idea of seating me and my wife at a table with a fellow who'd taken the pledge and was everything but gracious about it. His wife and daughter were still drinking, at least, and they established an admirable, almost athletic pace, while he glowered at everybody.I guess he had to show up because he was one of the trustees, or to drive his family home.
    I happened to mention something about university outreach in the surrounding poor communities, unaware that it was the equivalent of poking a bobcat with a stick.
    "This school has done too much for the community already," he said.
    When they brought the generic white wine around to fill our glasses, I begged them to leave the
    bottle on the table.

  4. I'd file this in the bin marked "just because you can, should you?"

  5. yes off with his head, and getting so near the Queen. in the age of technology she may have to install a sort of alarm system for laptops passing over head. There is still an alarming amount of doiley use today-how come we can blog at State dinners-but can't come up with a spiffy alternative to the dreaded doiley? what next?

  6. Now I've heard everything.
    Bangers and Mash served up canapé style?
    Thanks Rosie, for transforming social discomfort into something that makes the rest of us laugh aloud.

  7. Lets hope his computer gets a virus! LOL


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