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??