Column: August 17, 2011

THE candles guttered in the draught, casting jerky and misshapen shadows of the noblemen on the walls of the games room.

In the amber light, the players stared at the cards fate had dealt them. The only sound was the crackling from the fireplace, and the soft chatter from the womenfolk in the drawing room.

One of the men laid down his cards with an aching sigh. “This hand is bobbins,” he said. “Can’t we play snap?”

“No,” said John Montagu, Fourth Earl Of Sandwich, “We will continue to play the game Faro, this being the 18th century and Faro, consequently, being all the rage. Besides, my hand is a corker.”

Outside the room, the servants hovered and havered. “What shall we do?” they asked. “Dinner will go cold if his Lordship doesn’t end his game. And then her Ladyship will go ape. It will be as bad as the Battle of Culloden, which happened recently according to Wikipedia.”

“You will have to tell him,” the chief butler told a pageboy.

The pageboy was shoved into the room. Gingerly, he approached the Earl.

“Your Earl of Sandwichness?” said the page.

“What is it, Ginger?”

“Your dinner’s ready.”

“Damn and blast it, boy! Can you not see that I have some cards which are quite good in the game Faro, which is currently popular? Go and put your head in the … Wait! I have an idea.”

And he whispered in Ginger’s ear. Ginger disappeared and returned with two slices of bread and some salt beef.

“Look!” The Earl said to his companions. “I have liberated us from the tyranny of the knife and fork.” He slipped the beef in between the two slices of bread. “I have made… a SANDWICH.”

The other noblemen clapped and said what a clever chap Montagu was. “That is the best thing since sliced bread,” said one of them. “In fact, if anything, it finally provides a function for sliced bread.”

But when Montagu went to pick up his “sandwich” he saw Ginger had whipped away the plate. “What the devil?” roared the Earl.

“Sorry, your Earl of Sandwichness,” said Ginger. “Needed to make a few adjustments.”

“What is this?” Montagu said, pointing at the plate.

“Garnish, boss. Some lovely crisps…”

“Well, that’s all right, I can pick them up with my fingers. But salad? Yes, I can pick up the quarter of tomato, and the cucumber slice, but the lettuce is pushing it.”

“Oops, nearly forgot,” said Ginger, and he dolloped a load of coleslaw on the plate.

“What’s the point of that?” said Montagu. “Now I HAVE to use a knife and fork. You have completely obliterated any advantage of having a sandwich at all.”

“Can’t help it, boss. That is how sandwiches have to come. It is catering law.”

“Oh, bad luck,” said one of the noblemen, the one who wanted to play snap, and who was secretly jealous that Sandwich had managed to have something named after him. “Never mind, maybe one day you will invent something useful…”

“Wait!” said Montagu. “I have it! In around 250 years, I expect there will be a man in his late thirties on his holidays. Perhaps he will be from Liverpool and wear spectacles.

“Most days while he is on his holiday he will have a sandwich for his lunch for convenience, and, no matter where he goes, he will receive it with crisps, a quarter of tomato, a slice of cucumber, two massive pieces of lettuce and a gigantic splop of coleslaw. Every bloody time with no variation. In the end it will drive him insane.”

“Isn’t that a long shot?”

“Yes,” said the Earl of Sandwich. “But if my name can be used just to make somebody not yet born slightly fed up in a cafe, it is worth it.”

The jealous nobleman sighed. “I wish I could have something named after me, but it is just a hopeless dream.”

“Never mind,” said Montagu. “I will let you play snap. Will that cheer you up, Lord Kentucky Fried Chicken?”

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