The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 23 March

Dear Thomas

Following your ‘good news’ uplift from last week, what about this extraordinary chewing gum story? I couldn’t believe it at first. But it looks as if someone has finally cracked the awful problem of chewing gum litter. Christine Godwin, Worthing offer?

Penny Dewhurst, Cirencester 

Dear Christine

Do you know, I really would ban chewing gum if I were PM. When I was a teacher, it was a never-ending battle. I just couldn’t get it into the heads of my pupils that chewing gum – well, it’s not a good look. In fact it’s perfectly dreadful. The jaw churning away like that. It would be an insult to a dog to compare the spectacle. Dogs chew with more grace. I used to say, ‘How would you like it if the doctor was chewing gum?’

And then of course – we’ve all experienced it. You’re sitting in a restaurant or café. In an idle moment, bored perhaps, you feel under the table. Inevitably, there it is – a lump of dried gum stuck neatly in place by some previous lout. This even happened to me once in The Ritz.

So all praise and glory to British designer Anna Bullis, who has been slaving away behind the scenes for years to try and solve the problem. Gum is the second commonest type of litter after cigarettes. £14 billion a year is spent worldwide on the wretched stuff and UK councils spend £50 million annually cleaning it up. What Anna has discovered is that chewing gum can be recycled. It contains a polymer (the same as the new bank notes, so why not chew them instead?) which can be turned into all kinds of infinitely more useful items, such as crepe soles for one’s shoes. She has created, also from beastly recycled gum, a bright pink bin, called a Gumdrop, in an appropriate bubble shape into which chewers can put their used horror.

To encourage participation, there are also cups made of re-used gum (no, they don’t smell of mint), which, at the University of Winchester, were cunningly given free to students so they could see what the possibilities were. There the results have been good and the University is expanding the scheme. The Gumdrops are also being tried out at Heathrow airport, where £6,000 has been saved on cleaning. Finally the Great Western Railway has installed the bins at 25 of its stations.

Dear readers of The Lady will not, of course, be chewing gum, but you might enjoy spotting the bins as you whirr about on the railway or forge through Heathrow. You could even draw attention to their existence if you catch someone up to no good with their gum or on the verge of being so. Finally you can enjoy products made of recycled gum, such as azure gumboots. Apparently one gets over that they were once in someone’s mouth quite quickly.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

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Very few recognise that easter has set foods, just like Christmas. No, chicken is not acceptable for easter day lunch. The Israelites sat on their suitcases prior to the Exodus from Egypt (this is in the Old Testament) and ate roasted lamb with bitter herbs. From memory their menu was commanded from on high. So lamb is what you have on Easter day – it all tying in, of course, with the New Testament, Jesus as the sacrificial lamb and so forth. Even if you are not a believer, this is the tradition. Jewish people have lamb at passover. So once again I enter my annual plea: please have lamb at Easter. But what about the Easter cake? The simnel cake? I tried it once but I think a Victoria sponge with orange icing (ie, made with orange juice) and crystallised violets is more spring-like and hopeful. This is my private tradition. maybe it will be adopted worldwide. Last year there was a crisis with the violets: they didn’t come in time from Amazon. The year before, at Aunt Sue’s suggestion, I resorted to real violets. But this year I will be crystallised- violet-ready for Easter.