An Englishman Abroad – Part 1

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In a change from our usual bloggery i’m typing this while currently sitting on a plane awaiting French air traffic control to allow us safe passage over their land. While the wonders of travel are often vaunted as a way to increase the mind, my more immediate concern is that of decreasing the amount of time it is going to take me to reach my intended destination.

This, I fear, is hardly the attitude a gentleman traveller such as myself should be adopting. For centuries now the English have been regarded as a travelling breed. Be it in the form of explorers such as Captain Cook, Charles Darwin, or Ranulph Fiennes, or the more aggressive form of colonization that we were once famous for. Our island home necessitated the use of the sea to reach our neighbours, and once the navy had set sail it saw little point in stopping at the shores of France (which was probably closed due to a harbourmasters strike anyway), instead heading out into the great ocean expanses in search of adventure and an indentured workforce.

The English aristocracy invented the Grand Tour, which saw them take trains across Europe while hoping not to find themselves in a carriage with a small Belgium detective and a collection of upper class cultural stereotypes, in order to overcome the boredom of privileged life and to see the world. In the sixties the package holiday became a way for the great unwashed to also sample the pleasures of the continent, while generally searching for somewhere to have a proper cup of tea.

Now, in our globetrotting, carbon footprinting age, we take to the skies on airlines such as Easyjet (whose hospitality I am currently enjoying from 33,0000 feet, France having temporarily sorted it’s life out) which pack us in like cattle and invent ingenious surcharges with which to lighten our burden of personal wealth.

Gone are the days of dressing for dinner on the Orient Express while we discuss rumours of new scientific discoveries we heard about on the wireless. Now travel is a chore, best ended, rather than part of the adventure itself. Would Dr Livingstone have taken to the wilds of Africa if he’d had the Discovery channel? Could Scott’s ill-fated expedition been avoided if he’d saved up enough air miles? Who knows…or indeed dares to dream?

Instead, iPad to hand, I hurtle through the clouds towards a country I know little of, with events to transpire that I cannot predict. But I like to think that a little of the British spirit of adventure goes with me, that coursing in my blood is a measure of the wonder that drove my countrymen to seek out brave new worlds, new civilisations, who boldy….oh wait, that was Star Trek. Well, to use a phrase made popular by one of the illustrious Captains of the Enterprise (himself a Brit) – let’s see what’s out there…

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The Classic British Eccentric

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For many generations now it has been an established tradition in British families to have some sort of weird Uncle or Aunt who have a touch of the crazies going on. Whereas in other cultures this would result in ostracization, shame, or possibly even complete denial, over here it is a proud and notable part of our heritage.

Uncle Arthur’s built another illegal distillery in his window box? How inventive.

Auntie Marge has combined nuclear fusion and knicker elastic? That should come in handy…

Grandpa has once again annexed the Indian sub-continent by employing the use of the Royal Navy and a sizeable collection of ground troops? Well, maybe he should have explored more diplomatic methods first, but bless him, he’s 94 and still has all his own teeth.

Yep the British eccentric is a loveable character, a whimsical inventor, a misunderstood idealist. This is of course unless you happen to be poor. You see poor people can’t be eccentric, no, they’re simply crazy people who should be locked up as they’re a danger to others. Still, you have to have standards.

There have been many famous examples over the years of course, Caractacus Potts being as good as any. Not only did he build a car that can fly, sail, and seemingly think, but he also managed to call the thing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – suggesting that he may well have invented some pretty strong drugs around the same time. In fact the whole reality of his life (yes, I know he’s fictional, but run with it) is somewhat hazy when you consider the fact that he falls for a woman called Truly Scrumptious. Heavy LSD use aside Caractacus is an archetype that years later would bring us the likes of Dr Emmett Brown. Great Scott!!

Just say no, kids....

Women have also given their all in the pursuit of professional strangeness, with the creative arts being replete with candidates. Although Tracy Emin scores pretty highly for her artwork that consisted of wheeling her bed down to the gallery and not bothering to tidy it up – thus making her either a brave new talent or the laziest cleaning woman in the history of galleries – there is one that stands tall above all others. Vivienne Westwood has for decades now been convincing some of the most beautiful women in the world to dress up in clothes that are clearly designed for creatures from another planet. The fact that she can do it with a straight face and get tons of cash into the bargain proves that she must be some kind of renegade genius.

A Westwood creation....or some kind of curtain.

But when you’re clocking up the crazy you’d be hard pressed to even get near the levels that Sir Ranulph Twisleton Wykeham Fiennes OBE has managed to accrue. Not content with attaining a position in the SAS (Britain’s military elite), Ranulph instead set his heart on more tricky goals and became the first man to reach both the North and South pole on foot – well, with about half his foot and only a few fingers remaining by the time he’d finished. Shortly afterwards he suffered a heart-attack and had to have double-bypass surgery. To recover he decided to give himself a little challenge, and four months after going under the knife he completed 7 marathons in 7 days. Yep….7 in 7 days. Alongside all this he has written bestselling books, was nearly cast as James Bond instead of George Lazenby, and has a job title of Professional Adventurer.

He has now settled into a quiet retirement, with only the occasional climb up Mount Everest to keep him busy.

Ranulph. You legend.

The greatest adventurer of all time?

Are there any heroes you know that can top our Ranulph? Let me know if you think so…

The holiday that is always….in tents.

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Now, it’s been a long held tradition on these golden shores to build your dwellings from durable substances such as brick, concrete, and castle-shaped inflatable PVC (but the less said about that one the better). So it’s a curious thing that for several generations now the English have willingly opted to spend their precious holiday breaks crammed into canvas temporary accommodation with no electricity, plumbing, or heating.

“Is this some kind of gameshow?” you may ask in all seriousness. “What prize do they win for surviving such discomfort?” could be a sensible follow-up enquiry, but to your astonishment you would find the answer “No, it’s fun” as bewildering as the concept itself.

I think it's brightening up...

Whereas in some parts of the world the idea of being outside, communing with nature, and getting back to basics would seem a respite from the relentless drudgery of city life, the problem with Britain is that it is a green and pleasant land. Why is this a problem? Well, think about it….green…go on, it’ll come…green….that’s right, when you want plants to remain green in your home the most important thing is to water them regularly….ahhhhh, there it is.

Far from being the sun drenched kingdom of paradise that the tourist board would have you believe, in actual fact it’s been known to rain a bit over here. Then a bit more….then quite a bit more. In fact if we were to redesign the national flag to something more representative of this great nation, using the kind of imagery of, say, Canada where a Maple Leaf proudly announces the natural beauty and richness of the country, then I think it would probably end up with a grey background against which would be placed a large umbrella. ‘Come to Britain!’ we’d proudly proclaim, ‘where there are pretty much no dangerous animals and you have very little chance of getting sunburnt!’ – how would you resist such entreatment?

So why would we subject ourself to a thing inexplicable as camping? Well, one answer is that it’s cheap. Here I think is the first modern fallacy that camping uses to capture you in it’s canvas clutches. You see it is in principle a cheap holiday. There’s an initial investment of a tent (which can actually be quite a substantial investment), then the hire of the place to put it, and after that surely the rest is stuff you already own? The kids run free in the fields while you try your best to read that 600 page blockbuster you’ve never found time for at home. But no…. You see camping has a darker side. The gadgets. A tent is just the beginning, then you need a cooking device of some kind, then maybe some plastic plates, a torch, how about some foldable chairs? Before you know it you’re waist high in a collection of devices that bend, expand, constrict, and have a multitude of pockets. It’s like the Spanish Inquisition merged with Habitat.

Once you manage to stuff these symbols of empire into the creaking car, leaving the children feeling like they’ve been bricked up in the walls of Bedlam, you can begin the long drive down roadwork lined motorways in search of the nirvana that awaits. Arriving at the site you’d be forgiven for thinking a natural disaster had occurred in the area and all these poor people have been ousted from their homes only to end up in this destitute refugee camp. You unpack the kids, spend an hour trying desperately not to rip your house as you assemble it, enter your new residence, put the kettle on, sit back in uncomfortable chairs and watch as the heavens open.

Now I enjoy damp clothes and the feeling of never being quite clean as much as the next person, but camping is, as far as I can make out, something of a Zen pastime. You see if you can put a smile on your face, recognise the irony of the ridiculous nature of the pursuit, revel in having to walk 1km to go to the toilet, then suddenly the weirdest transformation takes place – you actually begin to enjoy it. So it takes ten minutes to make a cup of tea? What’s the hurry? You’ve developed callouses from the continual zipping and unzipping of the multiple doorways? It’s proof you’re doing something new. You can’t sleep at night because the heavy rain pounding on the tent sounds like a production of Stomp? Hey, at least the delirium it induces will help you get through the day.

People say that Britain has lost the Dunkirk spirit, but I say neigh. It’s simply moved from the sea to the fields and with it the knowledge that some corner of them will remain forever England.

Biscuit Etiquette Part 4 – The confection of confusion

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As most biscuit appreciators will attest there are certain things you would expect to find when tucking into a choice morsel. One of the most obvious is a crunch in the bite – as we all know soft biscuit equals bad biscuit, hence the need for a well crafted tin in which to preserve the firmity.

It’s with no uncertain trepidation then that we approach today’s subject matter, the mysterious pleasures that exude from that duplicitous of all confection….the jaffa cake.

This way madness lies...

Now I can already hear the emails forming in your heads along the lines of ‘Martyn, have you completely lost your mind?’ ‘What madness is this that you spout?’ ‘A CAKE!!!! a +^!*@£ CAKE in the biscuit section!!!!!’ ‘Increase the size of your manhood with this new pill’ etc., but first hear me out, then at least you can throw me out in the full knowledge of this mania that has taken me its unwilling prisoner.

You see I think we must seriously consider the case of the Jaffa cake. Whereas many would posit that it’s just sponge with ideas above its station, or that the very nature of including a fruit section would place it squarely in the realms of tart, it’s to its testament that the Jaffa still proudly nestles in the heart of the biscuit section in your local supermarket, as if daring you to remove it. In many ways its the Rosa Parks of biscuitdom, refusing to be moved so that another generic packet of digestives can take its place – if you listen carefully sometimes in the quiet of midnight shopping you can almost hear the echoes of ‘We Shall Overcome’ drifting up the aisles.

You see it’s the very nature of the Jaffa’s contrast that earns it a place at the saucer of life. The light sponge base, the orange fruit filling, all sealed in a chocolate covering that sports a whimsical grid-like pattern that seems almost to laugh at convention while gently taking its hand and leading it to the kitchen for the promise of more.

It is the seductress, the confuser, a taste of the exotic that you know is wrong but cannot resist, it is the bi-curious of biscuits which will drag many willingly to their doom and mock them in their destruction.

So step warily to the table that would present the Jaffa, and hold steadfast in the convictions of your mind lest you be caught in its sorcery. The exotic brings unique pleasures, but the cost can be ruinous.

On last thing to remember, another sign of the wicked perversion of biscuitry that is the Jaffa. Just as with Pharaoh’s heart against the nation of Israel, when a Jaffa hardens all hope of mercy is lost.

You have been warned…

An Englishman Abroad – Part 1

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So the world cup is now over. England once again returned home a humiliated nation (more so for our crazy level of optimism for a team that has continually failed to reach it’s supposed potential), while the perennial underachievers Holland and Spain contested a nasty and spiteful final.

It was fascinating though to notice that as a neutral the game brought into conflict two of the pillars that British society is founded on – supporting the underdog and fair play. Before the game I was sitting in the Holland camp, wanting a team that had worked hard to reach the final to succeed against the might of European champions Spain. Maybe it’s the island nation thing but the British love to see the smaller guy do well. It’s probably why we aren’t particularly good at winning things and I’m sure that at times we’d rather be the plucky, brave losers that rose above their humble origins to overcome the might of a superior adversary then the actual champions themselves. The problem that this brings is that you don’t really want to win because then you couldn’t cheer for your team, instead we’d all be researching our roots to see if we have ancestry that would allow us to support the Faro Isles or New Zealand. Yep, we’re pretty screwed up.

As the game began it became glaringly obvious within minutes that the Dutch had a strategy to defeat the free-passing Spanish, and that was simply to ignore the ball and kick the players instead. Now, as a proud Englishman it should be noted that I’m all up for a hard, physical game of football. I’m no fan of players rolling around on the floor 50 times after a member of the opposing team has looked at them in a rakish manner, but if there is one thing that will overcome the support of the underdog in the Top Trumps of British culture then that is the fact that we will brook no cheats.

A sense of fair play, honour, and adherence to the agreed rules is the very cornerstone of the British psyche. I know in the past that I’ve been involved in situations were it was clear that someone I was dealing with had decided to try and pull a fast one (colloquialism ahoy!) and the sense of personal injury was immense. The fact that the situation in question was something of absolutely no importance and that the offending fop was actually having a laugh shows how deeply entrenched and possibly weird the fair play gene is.

For example, I support Chelsea football club and a few years ago we signed an excellent player called Didier Drogba who is a mountain of a man. Midway through his first season at the club he found himself being booed by his own supporters. What was his crime? Was he not putting the effort in? Not a chance, Didier is an absolute workhorse. Was he well off form? On the contrary, he was banging in the goals and terrorising the opposition. So what was our problem? He was cheating. To be more specific he was collapsing to the floor after innocuous challenges and then acting as if someone was trying to amputate his legs without the aid of anaesthetic. It was a pitiful sight. So we booed him, much to his surprise and consternation. We booed our own player who was having a great season but not playing in the manner which we wanted and expected. Thankfully he adjusted his behaviour, well to an extent, and helped lead us to two league titles.

The problem we had was that we didn’t want to win if it meant having to put up with any form of apparent dishonesty. Now some may decry this as symptomatic of a nation that is now unlikely to win things and therefore resorts to taking a moral high ground, and they may be right, but I prefer to think that at the heart of the British still pulses a nobility that demands integrity, hard work, and a belief in honour – maybe the Protestant work ethic stills runs in our veins?

So, as the world cup final progressed and the Dutch set about their dastardly plan, I felt a stirring in my heart and before long I could think of no greater injustice in the world than these cynical assassins winning the final. By the end I was desperate to see them win and when the goal flew in with only a handful of minutes of extra time remaining I cheered as if my own country had bagged the winner. Oddly enough the Dutch complained about a foul that had occurred in the build up to the goal, but that only made the whole thing sweeter – they had drawn their swords and then been destroyed by their own weapons. Beautiful.

So, although the England team were already on their summer holidays when this struggle for justice was unfolding, at least we were there in a more ethereal sense. I’ll claim a moral victory, in lieu of an actual one happening anytime in the next 20 years…

The old enemy…

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The World Cup has kicked off in South Africa this week and England started with their usual stumbling drunkard style of play that resulted in a 1-1 draw with the United States. Of course the nation is now convinced that the team will crash to a humiliating defeat against the first decent side they come up against, causing the pound to fail, the overthrow of the monarchy by Vikings (again!), and the immediate sinking of Britain – only for it to pass into mythical legend alongside Atlantis and Luxembourg (what do you mean it’s a real place?).

So here for all to see is the British psyche in all it’s fragile glory. The Americans were not expected to get a result by the bookmakers or pundits (and to be fair without our goalkeeper helpfully throwing the ball into the net they might not have done so) but I’ll happily place a bet that the American team certainly thought they would.

It's just not Cricket...

On paper it was a sure-thing. England’s players are some of the most lauded in the world, not to mention best paid, while the Americans boasted only really two truly impressive players (Donovan & Howard), but football – like life – is very rarely about individuals. As a team the US ran harder, harried the midfielders, marked our world-beater Rooney out of the game by players who can barely get games for their teams, and pretty much knocked the confidence out of our glass heroes.

Why?

Could this be the classic English trait of stoic and resigned defeat bubbling to the surface? The never-say-win attitude that has served us so well for so long. It really is depressingly predictable….and so wrong that it must be stopped immediately.

You see over the years we’ve created pretty much every sport that really matters (sorry US chums but in a global sense it’s true) – Football, Rugby, Cricket, Darts and Snooker (ok those last two don’t count), but now get regularly trounced by all those awful foreigners who have taken our beautiful games and turned them into ugly things that require skill and mental toughness. Long gone is the gentlemanly pursuit of honour bound sportsmanship, replete with a glass of Pimms and servants to do the running. Now each participant is expected to carry their own weight and exert themselves until they actually break a sweat – how undignified!

So, as we seem to now lack the baser nature of the Italians, Germans and Brazilians at football, Australians and Sri Lankans at Cricket, and the Australians (again) at Rugby I suggest that we call time on these sports for the great unwashed and instead turn our attention to something more befitting of our national characteristics.

Tiddlywinks anyone?

And then there were two…

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The last month or so has seen Britain listening to the main political parties vying to be our new leaders and then executing their democratic right by casting their votes. What it resulted in was….well, a surprise.

Under the current voting system a party has to win 326 ‘seats’ (elected members of parliament) to have a majority and therefore form the new government – but none of the parties managed this task. The Conservatives (similar in ilk to American Republicans) attained 307, Labour (a bit right of socialist), who were the current government , got 258, and the third largest party – The Liberal Democrats (the name should be a clue) – scored a lowly but very significant 57. So the days after the election saw plenty of theorising and negotiating who would ally with who until finally the Conservatives and Liberals announced yesterday that they would form a coalition and govern together.

So….bored yet? Well wait just a moment. You see this is rather a special event. Not since the second world war has Britain had a coalition government. To be honest most think it completely unworkable. But in the last few hours I’ve sat and watched the new leadership team of the Prime Minister (David Cameron – Conservative) and Deputy PM (Nick Clegg – Liberal) host a joint press conference and emerge…rather well indeed.

They both spoke of a new future of politics not hampered by short-termism and defending old positions. They honestly looked excited by the idea, as if it had come as some sort of revelation, a kind of ideological burning bush on the road to Downing Street. The fact that their parties are traditionally diametrically opposed was talked about in terms of balance and representative of the nation. They laughed together, cracked jokes, and even managed to ride a few cranky journalists trying to cause them trouble. By the time they took their collective leave and walked back into number 10 together the assembled crowds, and even several Twitterers that I follow, all seemed lifted by what they had seen.

Of course it’s early days, and trouble waits very obviously on the immediate horizon thanks to the financial crisis affecting the world, but I have to say that to these cynical old eyes I feel I may have witnessed something of a landmark. Can two become one, setting aside hardened dogma for the benefit of the greater good? I have reservations, but you know what? I’m willing to give these guys a bit of room. Co-operative politicians with a bigger picture mentality and an actual sense of humour? Never thought I’d see the day….

Fight for your right to party

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Last night saw the first televised debate featuring the leaders of the three main parties contesting the upcoming general election. Many hailed it as a breakthrough, allowing the public to see their prospective governors in the flesh and in, albeit polite and suited, combat. Others decried it as simply another Americanisation of British culture.

Myself – I see it as an opportunity lost. You see to really judge the metal of a man, to see how fit he is to lead this great nation, I think we need to see them in actual combat. Oh yes. It’s on! It’s on like Donkey Kong!

Now the more serious political thinkers out there might think I’m going too far, but lets look at the facts. The House of Commons has lines marked on the floor of the centre aisle, these happen to be just greater than the length of a sword in an outstretched arm and were purposefully drawn to stop angry members attacking each other without warning in days gone by (hence the term ‘Toe the Line’). Parties also employ the use of ‘whips’ whose job it is to bully and cajole reluctant members into voting in line with the government. So is it such a stretch to get to the realms of a leader-on-leader deathmatch? I don’t think so.

Of course honour must be upheld, so my proposal is that duelling should be reintroduced. A fight to the death with only a brave heart and your skill with a cannon standing between you and being splattered all over the backbenches. If that doesn’t raise interest in politics (especially among the younger generations) then I fear we are lost…

It's the only way to be sure...

A classy breakfast…

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There’s a bit of a presumption sometimes in the media and generally in society that certain behaviours exist almost innately within social classes. One of these is that middle-class people are generally polite and tend to guard what they say so as not to offend anyone. While another is that working-class people will say the first thing that comes into their mind regardless of the consequences.

Now, to be fair, I’ve seen plenty examples of both in action, but as with any societal generalisation this varies wildly from person to person. Having worked in a vast collection of jobs over the years I’ve observed at first hand plenty of middle-class insensitivity, and a similar amount of working class charm and restraint. But there’s one story I was reminded of recently that showed where some of these traits can actually be quite useful.

You see the problem with caring too much about what others think is that it can often mean people don’t speak out against stuff they should. Now, if it’s life threatening then I have faith in the British that they will intervene, but if it’s just annoying then I fear our silence could well be deafening. A kind of ‘oh, I’m sure he’ll stop in a minute’ or ‘don’t look, and maybe she’ll go away’ attitude can often be spotted by the wily observer of British culture, no doubt linked to our national sense of reserve and stiff upper lip to endure all things. But now and again someone will address to nere-do-well and call them to account for their transgressions, and they will be carried away on the mental shoulders of the observers, a hero of great renown. Such an event is the one I mentioned earlier, and which always will remain in my heart as the true soul of British sense of fair play and mutual respect.

A friend of mine was working as a runner on a film set years ago, and during a break while on a location shoot members of the crew went to eat at a greasy-spoon cafe (or Diner). Among them was a producer who obviously liked that title a little too much. For most of the time that they ate this self-important figure bellowed into his mobile phone – making a mockery of the term personal-call. Sitting behind him was a small group of builders, no doubt loading up on food for the graft ahead. Having had enough of the pontification one of them turned around and addressed the producer with a statement along the lines of –

‘Oi, mate. Can you keep it down?’

Offended that this oik would dare to address him directly the producer lowered his phone stared at the man in disbelief and retorted with –

‘Do you know who I am?’

But rather than collapse under the weight of class brow-beating the builder replied in a simple and wise way –

‘I don’t care who the fuck you are. You’re ruining my breakfast!’

The producer’s class immunity shattered, he quietly turned off his phone and entered into the shame-halls of everybody’s minds.

To the builder it may have been nothing out of the ordinary, but to us mere mortals he spoke the truth and did it with dignity, bravery, and a slight hint of aggression. These moments are to be savored, and through this blog I want to keep his legacy alive, and encourage any of you out there who see such things to do the same.

The perils of a quick dip… Biscuit Etiquette Part 3

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We have already seen the dangers that lie await for the unsuspecting biscuiteer, but now we move onto one of the most treacherous waters in our quest for ‘Biscuit Enlightenment’. In many cultures there are metaphorical lines drawn in the sand that once crossed by an innocent unversed in their social mores can lead to much offence and in some parts of the stereotypical world a short trip to large boiling pot laced with carrots, onions, and the obligatory pith helmet. In Britain this manners faultline is placed on the precarious tectonic plates of dunking and not dunking.

It has oft been stated that you never get another chance to make a first impression. This is certainly the case in the world of biscuitry immersion. You can be seated in the home of a charming family, enjoying maybe a game of bridge while in the background the children softly sing heartwarming renditions of songs they’ve written to accompany the works of Benjamin Britten, when into your hand is placed a cup of tea with two small biscuits nestling on the saucer.

You smile gratefully into the butlers face, place the beverage on your table, take a biscuit gently in your fingers and then plunge it into the tea. Immediately screams fill the air around you and your bridge partner collapses (requiring the attention of your opponents, who now curse your name for spoiling their chance to play a Ruffing Finesse). The children are torn from the room by a distraught nanny screaming at them to cover their eyes, while the lady of the house runs to her bureau where she pens a missive to the Duke of Monmoth demanding that he head at once to the Commons were he should beseech Parliament to declare war on her wretched guest.  Things had been going so well.

The emissary of evil

To avoid this oh-so-familiar story there are certain survival tactics that you can employ. Firstly one of observation.

If the cup you are handed is of a fine bone-China variety, maybe with an ornate and stomach-turning rendition of various flora adorning both it and the accompanying saucer, then the chances are that you are in a non-dipping house. The biscuits will aid your detection too. If they are small, sugared, and generally dainty in vista then once again you should refrain from an act of baptism.

If on the other hand you are presented with a mug (of any description) then submerge your confection with gay abandon.

The real difficulty arises when you are in a home that plays host to the modern ‘large-cup’. This hybrid vessel is often a sign of the owners uncertainty in their social standing. Be wary of these people as they may be likely to crack at any moment under the pressure of class distinction. In this most perilous of situations your survival will hang on your ability to get them to dip first.

A tried and tested method is the ‘Whorish Flaunt’ pioneered by the Earl of Wessex in 1807.  You should take the biscuit in full view of your hosts, tease the edge of the cup with it while absently chatting, then tantilisingly withdraw it to your mouth, all the time gauging the response of your potential assailants.  If you sense any sort of arousal in their posture then they may be showing their hand too early in an attempt to draw you out – bide your time. Engage them in conversation about the abhorrent weather for this time of year, or how there’s nothing of worth on television any more, lure them into a sense of security and familiarity until finally one of them will either dip or finish their biscuits. Your steely nerves and adherence to the method will serve to make you the victor in this desperate game of ‘Parlour Roulette’ and allow you to avoid obliteration for at least one more social encounter.

One rule that is universally clear though, in any situation or setting,  is to avoid people who dip chocolate biscuits…as they’re just plebs.