It was brave of the Duchess of Cambridge to give the Queen a jar of homemade chutney for her first Christmas at Sandringham. The etiquette surrounding the giving of chutney is hugely complicated and donating it to royalty raises constitutional issues.
The point about chutney-as-a-present is that it is never eaten. Protocol requires the recipient to remove the lid, sniff the contents, say something like “Ah, rhubarb, date and greengage – my favourite,” then put it at the back of the store cupboard, along with all the gifts of tiny pots of different sorts of grainy mustard. The Queen probably didn’t open Kate’s jar. “The Sovereign never sniffs,” a constitutional expert tells me. Instead, we learn, Her Majesty graciously left the jar on the table.
Homemade green tomato chutney is a special case, as it denotes the offloading of a surplus rather than a gift. It is generally agreed that giving someone more than one jar of green tomato chutney in a lifetime may be considered a hostile act. Retaliation may take the form of a bottle of homemade parsnip wine.
A lightly spiced soft-set chutney made with grapes and raisins Photo: CLARE WINFIELD
The connection between royalty and chutney probably goes back to the reign of Queen Victoria. I believe that an Indian Maharaja (possibly of Gujarat) took it on himself to send the Queen a jar of his chutney. Then other Maharajas would have heard about this and followed suit, until Victoria was bombarded with the condiment.
The store cupboards at Osborne House would be overflowing with enough chutney for 11,000 ploughman’s lunches.
It was then that Queen Victoria probably famously said: “We have sufficient chutney.” This, of course, would have been taken to be an outright ban. I’m sure that this was overlooked in the case of the Duchess of Cambridge’s gift and that her mixture of marrow, dates and apple is now at the back of a Sandringham cupboard, next to Prince Edward’s not entirely successful 1988 Seville orange marmalade.
On the hop
The great row between Easter chicks and Easter bunnies has been re-ignited after remarks by the president of the World Fluffy Federation (WFF) caused an outcry. In a speech in Palm Springs he was reported to have said that chicks only got attention on the coat tails of bunnies and it was bunnies who represented the true spirit of Easter. “The bunny Easter is a whole different ball game,” he said.
This brought a furious response. A spokeschick for the Cuddly Poultry Association (CPA) tweeted: “This sort of out-dated attitude will not be tolerated.” The president of the WFF immediately apologised and resigned.
It is certainly true that the chicks have taken huge strides in recent years, boosting sales in the greetings card and novelty gift industry. They have certainly generated worldwide interest in soppiness, but this fails to convince a large section of the bunny community.
One champion bunny, who wished to remain anonymous, told me: “It’s a fact of life; chicks don’t have the floppy ears. The public are not satisfied with cheep-cheep, they want hoppity hoppity hop. That’s what sells chocolate.”
North Middlesex Hospital Photo: Alamy
Accident and emergency
It was just a quiet Wednesday evening in A&E at St George’s, Tooting. There were about 30 to 40 of us in the reception area and you could see the resignation on every face. We accepted that we were in for a long wait. Even when the fire alarm went off in the room, just before 5pm, loud and nerve-shredding, nobody reacted. The noise continued for about seven minutes. We didn’t like to mention it.
Only one man stood up a looked about agitatedly for somebody to do something , then suddenly it was too much for him and he fell to the floor and had a fit. Another patient was the first to go to his aid and the nurses and doctors followed. The man was put on a trolley and wheeled away. The alarm stopped.
I sat opposite a man with a heroically large wad of blood-soaked cotton wool in his right nostril; a young chap in tracksuit placed himself next to a socket, charging his mobile phone and after about 40 minute he walked out, with the phone successfully treated, I suppose.
There was a lot of pacing, little anxious family groups and a few solitary men with temporary bandages on their foreheads. A courtly old gentleman in a rumpled lightweight jacket and a stylish trilby tried to make a getaway on his walking frame but was gently herded back again by the nurses.
My wife was finally admitted to a ward just after 9pm. “This was not on my bucket list,” she said, as they put her to bed. Twenty minutes later I blundered out into the Tooting night.