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Dead at 31 after her chemo was ‘paused’ due to Covid: Cancer sufferers are fighting for their lives

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dead at 31 after her chemo was paused due to covid cancer sufferers are fighting for their lives

Aged just 31 and with a six-year-old son she doted upon, Kelly Smith had everything to live for.

But the ‘vivacious’ beautician, who was suffering from bowel cancer, was robbed of her future when the pandemic hit.

Doctors told her in March that her chemotherapy was being paused for three months. Her cancer spread and she died on June 13.

Miss Smith is just one of thousands of cancer patients abandoned by the NHS when the coronavirus crisis hit.

Hospitals desperate to clear beds for Covid patients cancelled virtually all procedures, including vital tests and operations, when the country shut down on March 23.

Kelly Smith, 31, was told by her doctors in March that that her chemotherapy was being paused for three months - but her cancer spread and she died on June 13

Kelly Smith, 31, was told by her doctors in March that that her chemotherapy was being paused for three months – but her cancer spread and she died on June 13

Many had their diagnosis delayed while others, especially those with secondary cancers, such as Miss Smith, who were relying on treatments, drug trials or surgery to buy them time, missed out on procedures, leaving them facing curtailed life-spans.

The backlog is so long that 3 million are now waiting for screening, says Cancer Research UK. 

Charities estimate up to 35,000 extra deaths next year may be caused by cancer as a result of the pandemic.

As the UK teeters on the brink of a second wave, doctors, campaigners and MPs are demanding the Government prevents a similar shut down of cancer care. 

If they don’t, the NHS will be left with a cancer time-bomb, with tens of thousands dying in the months and years to come, they say.

‘Now I won’t see my daughters grow up’ 

Life could hardly have been much better for primary school teacher Jennifer Eldridge in March.

She and her husband Jonathan had just bought their first home, he had been promoted in his Civil Service job, and their elder daughter was settling into her Reception class.

Then at Easter the active, healthy-living 40-year-old began experiencing back pain.

It was impossible to get a face-to-face appointment at the local surgery, and it took a month even to secure an online consultation. She was prescribed painkillers.

Four months later, concerns raised by a blood test she eventually had finally saw Mrs Eldridge referred for a colonoscopy – and a consultant said he had seen what seemed to be a tumour.

Jennifer Eldridge, who has stage 4 colorectal cancer, is pictured with her daughters Lina, five, and Jasmine, two

Jennifer Eldridge, who has stage 4 colorectal cancer, is pictured with her daughters Lina, five, and Jasmine, two

Specialists told her she had stage 4 colorectal cancer which appeared to have spread to her lungs, and she was left coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis. 

She believes that had it not been for the pandemic, she could have been diagnosed sooner – boosting her chances of seeing daughters Lina, five, and Jasmine, two, at least reach their teens.

Mrs Eldridge, of Bristol, said: ‘I’ve been told my cancer has likely spread to my lungs, meaning it is incurable and I could have just two years to live.

‘If I could have seen my GP earlier, if those supposedly ‘non-urgent’ tests had been carried out… the cancer might not have had the chance to spread. To suddenly have your future as a family ripped from your hands is the worst part. I won’t be there with Jonathan to guide Lina and Jasmine through their childhoods.’

The couple have launched an appeal to help pay for treatments not covered by the NHS.

To donate, visit: uk.gofundme.com/f/mu6nw-help-me-beat-cancer 

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Professor Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist at the University of Buckingham, warned: ‘Cancer is not a disease where you can put people on the shelf for three months. It’s not like hip replacements or cataract surgery where patients on the waiting list face immense discomfort – if cancer isn’t diagnosed and treated promptly, it can spread, and more people will die.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘There will be tragic consequences if ministers do not restore cancer services and guarantee patients the treatment they need.’

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘This obsession with one issue – Covid – is disastrous. A second lockdown would be an unmitigated disaster in health terms: fewer cancer patients will get treatment, and there will be more deaths.’

Professor Pat Price, a consultant oncologist and founder of the Catch Up With Cancer Campaign, told the Mail: ‘The stark reality is that if we don’t get through this backlog, patients won’t get the treatment they need and will die. Cancer patients are as important as Covid patients.’

Miss Smith, from Macclesfield, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2017. She underwent an operation to remove part of her colon but the cancer had spread to her liver.

Over the next three years Miss Smith, mother to six-year-old Finn, underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy but each time the cancer returned. In December she was told it had spread to her lungs, liver, intestines and brain. 

She was midway through another round of chemotherapy, which she believed was buying her time, when the pandemic hit.

Shortly before her death, Miss Smith said: ‘I’m angry at Covid and that I got put on this break because I don’t think I should have.

‘I’m terrified – absolutely terrified. I don’t want to die. I feel like I’ve got so much more to do.’

Craig Russell, 51, Miss Smith’s step-father, told the Mail that her life had been ‘traded’ for those of Covid patients. 

‘Kelly’s loss has been devastating to our family. So many people have suffered the same as we have, losing loved ones. We will never really get over the fact we lost Kelly.’

Mr Russell and his wife, Mandy, Miss Smith’s mother, have set up a petition, which has gathered more than 316,000 signatures, urging the Government to end cancer treatment delays in the pandemic. 

Last week the couple met Health Secretary Matt Hancock to express their concerns.

Mr Russell said: ‘Cancer is a far bigger threat than Covid ever could be. Every day 500 people die from cancer and those numbers are starting to increase because there is no treatment. Sadly, it is too late for Kelly, but there is still time to save others.’

Maxine Smith, 32, a hairdresser and a mother of two, is another cancer sufferer who feels her life may be cut short because of the virus.

She said: ‘Cancer patients like me were just left, like sitting ducks. The cancer has been eating away at my body. I feel like I’m being murdered, plain and simple.’

Jennifer Eldridge, 40, had a delayed diagnosis because of Covid, and was only diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer in August – four months after her symptoms began.

The married mother of two has been given just two years to live. 

She said: ‘It’s utterly crushing to think if this hadn’t happened during a pandemic, things could be so different.’

Responding to the heartbreaking accounts, Professor Sikora said: ‘This really illustrates how the virus has created so much suffering indirectly. The Government mustn’t make the mistake of shutting everything down again. That would be the wrong decision.’

Dying mother: They need to stop focusing just on Corona

A mother-of-two whose lung cancer spread to her brain after her operation was cancelled said: ‘The NHS should be for everybody, not just Covid patients.’

Beth Purvis, 41, said: ‘My prognosis is not good. I’ve likely got four months to a year left to live.’

Mrs Purvis had been scheduled to have a tumour removed from her right lung on March 25. But it was cancelled with only a week’s notice amid the pandemic.

Mother-of-two Beth Purvis's lung cancer (pictured with husband Richard and children Joseph, 12, and Abigail, 10) spread to her brain after her operation was cancelled

Mother-of-two Beth Purvis’s lung cancer (pictured with husband Richard and children Joseph, 12, and Abigail, 10) spread to her brain after her operation was cancelled

She said: ‘I was devastated, I just burst into tears. It is a critical operation because it could help buy me time.

‘I will never know if that operation could have saved my life. It might have done. But it was cancelled, and then I found out at the end of May it had spread to my brain.’ 

Mrs Purvis said she and husband Richard, a painter and decorator, have always been up front with their children, Joseph 12, and Abigail, ten, about her treatment.

She said: ‘At the time, I did understand why the hospital needed to free up beds. But that didn’t make it any easier. My message to the Health Service is to try to focus on not just Covid. The Government haven’t made it as clear as they could.’

Mrs Purvis, a legal assistant from Essex, added: ‘Who knows what will happen. I have to stay positive.

‘If I can help prevent someone else going through this, then what’s happened to me hasn’t happened for no reason.’ 

‘I had to bring our wedding forward’

Maxine Smith is looking forward to marrying her builder fiance, Mike Peacock. 

She has brought the wedding forward to next week because she has no idea how long they will have together.

Miss Smith, 32, mother to George, seven, and Mia, five, was diagnosed with cervical cancer two years ago. 

Maxine Smith, 32, has brought her wedding to her builder fiance Mike Peacock forward to next week after she discovered that the cervical cancer had returned

Maxine Smith, 32, has brought her wedding to her builder fiance Mike Peacock forward to next week because she has no idea how long they will have together

She was in the middle of a course of chemotherapy when the country locked down in March.

The former hairdresser finished that treatment and was declared free of tumours, but a drugs trial to keep the disease at bay was shelved. 

Last month, she discovered the cancer had returned. She says patients such as her were left like ‘sitting ducks’.

‘Everything was put on hold because of Covid (but) the cancer has been eating away at my body. I’ve now got four tumours. Lockdown has… allowed my cancer to progress and stolen precious time from me. I just want to see my kids through school, I just want more time.’

Miss Smith, of Cheadle, Manchester, added: ‘I still work, I pay my taxes, but I was left when Covid came.

‘I’ve never been so disgusted in my whole life.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Mother slashed weekly food bill from £60 to £10 by only purchasing discounted products

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mother slashed weekly food bill from 60 to 10 by only purchasing discounted products

A savvy shopper has revealed how she cut her weekly shop from £60 down to as little as £10 by purchasing yellow-sticker items.

Kelly Costa, 40, from Essex, was used to buying whatever grabbed her fancy in the supermarket, but after having to leave her job, she started taking greater care about the things she was putting in her trolley. 

Having successfully cut down her food spending, the mother has now shared her top shopping tactics on Instagram.  

‘Before becoming a mum to Isabella, now eight, I shopped haphazardly with no regard for what I chucked in my supermarket basket,’ said Kelly, speaking to LatestDeals.co.uk. ‘If I fancied wine, it went in.’

Kelly Costa, 40, from Essex, has saved money after she started buying yellow-ticketed items from supermarkets. Pictured, some of the bargain treats she bought

Kelly Costa, 40, from Essex, has saved money after she started buying yellow-ticketed items from supermarkets. Pictured, some of the bargain treats she bought

By knowing the time that supermarkets update their yellow-ticketed items, Kelly is able to swoop in and bag herself some bargains. Pictured, a selection of Kelly's shopping

By knowing the time that supermarkets update their yellow-ticketed items, Kelly is able to swoop in and bag herself some bargains. Pictured, a selection of Kelly’s shopping

Kelly (left) cares for her daughter Isabella, eight, (pictured right) and had to leave her job to look after her properly

Kelly (left) cares for her daughter Isabella, eight, (pictured right) and had to leave her job to look after her properly

‘I was a successful contract manager on a salary of £32,000 which was plenty for me and my boy Raphael, now 18 and a college student.

‘But then Isabella arrived and at two months doctors realised there was something wrong with her.

‘It emerged she had fluid on the brain and was subsequently diagnosed with macrocephaly, and developmental delays.

‘I continued working for two years but it was too much. The childminder couldn’t deal with Isabella’s extensive needs so I had to leave my job. 

By purchasing only discounted products, Kelly was able to cut her weekly food bill down from £60 to £10 (pictured)

By purchasing only discounted products, Kelly was able to cut her weekly food bill down from £60 to £10 (pictured)

Kelly didn't want her restricted finances to prevent her providing healthy meals for her children. Pictured, some of the bargain items Kelly has bagged

Kelly didn’t want her restricted finances to prevent her providing healthy meals for her children. Pictured, some of the bargain items Kelly has bagged

Having grown up near Lisbon in Portugal, Kelly wanted her children to eat dishes traditional to the area she grew up in. Pictured, some of the yellow-sticker items

Having grown up near Lisbon in Portugal, Kelly wanted her children to eat dishes traditional to the area she grew up in. Pictured, some of the yellow-sticker items

‘Overnight I went from having plenty of cash to virtually none, surviving on her disability benefit, carer’s allowance and universal credit. Her dad isn’t in the picture and money was really tight.’

However, having grown up near Lisbon, Portugal, Kelly was determined to continue providing healthy traditional meals for her children.  

She told a friend that she wasn’t prepared to let her children suffer because times were tough for her. 

‘So I looked into how I could buy good food cheaply – and became a yellow sticker shopper,’ explained Kelly. ‘That’s when supermarkets stick yellow stickers on goods as they approach the end of their best before dates.

‘You can knock 75 per cent off – there are amazing discounts. The best I’ve got off is £52.61.

‘I know what time the supermarkets knock down the prices and head there then, going straight to the reduced aisle. In the past, I’ve got chicken for £1, lamb steaks for 60p, chicken chipolatas for 60p and a smoked steak salmon for £1.

One of Kelly's bargains was a two-for-one Indian takeaway deal (pictured) which was originally £8 but she managed to grab for just £2

One of Kelly’s bargains was a two-for-one Indian takeaway deal (pictured) which was originally £8 but she managed to grab for just £2

She didn't want her children to have to suffer just because her income had become more restricted. Pictured, curry

She didn’t want her children to have to suffer just because her income had become more restricted. Pictured, curry

‘I’ve got a two for one Indian takeaway down from £8 to £2 too. Raphael and I enjoyed that.

‘I’ll look for fruit and veg too and have picked up raspberries for 33p, down from around £2, choccie puddings for 13p down from £2.50 and slaw 5p down from £1.’

Kelly doesn’t just stick to one supermarket though and will often travel to the various shops in her area to bag the bargains.  

She also isn’t afraid to take any and all yellow-ticket items because she eats everything she picks up, either on the day or over the following couple of days. 

‘Some of it I freeze, but most I eat the same day or over the next few days,’ she said. ‘In total, I spend about £10 a week on food, whereas before I spent about £60.  

Yellow-sticker items (pictured) are products that supermarkets have marked down at a discount, often knocking up to 75 per cent off the original price

Yellow-sticker items (pictured) are products that supermarkets have marked down at a discount, often knocking up to 75 per cent off the original price

In the past, Kelly has managed to pick up chicken for £1, lamb steaks for 60p and smoked salmon steaks for £1 (pictured)

In the past, Kelly has managed to pick up chicken for £1, lamb steaks for 60p and smoked salmon steaks for £1 (pictured)

‘I always advise to shop around, speak to supermarket workers to find out best times, always go to the last reduced section as it’s the biggest and arrive early so you can have a look around before they are repriced down.

‘I’d also advise people to cook from scratch. Instead of takeaways make your own fakeaways and get kids involved so they learn from an early age to be sensible.’

Kelly’s bargain hunting stretches beyond supermarkets though, as she now scours for freebies on apps such as Facebook and Olio – having bagged her two sofas for free.

Tom Church, co-founder of LatestDeals, commented: ‘Kelly’s amazing savings speak for themselves – getting her weekly shop down from £60 to £10 is seriously impressive.

‘I’d echo all her tips: chat to supermarket workers to find out what time your local stores reduce their prices and freeze anything you don’t immediately eat so nothing goes to waste. It’s good for your bank balance – and for the environment too!’

Kelly's watchful eye scours every type of product in the supermarket, often picking up fruit whenever she can find it on offer

Kelly’s watchful eye scours every type of product in the supermarket, often picking up fruit whenever she can find it on offer

She isn't ashamed about taking all the yellow-ticket items in a supermarket because she says she always eats everything, either on the day or over the course of the next couple

She isn’t ashamed about taking all the yellow-ticket items in a supermarket because she says she always eats everything, either on the day or over the course of the next couple

Kelly has also taken to freezing some of her bargains so that she can defrost and enjoy them at a later date

Kelly has also taken to freezing some of her bargains so that she can defrost and enjoy them at a later date

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Stamp duty cut should be extended warns housing industry

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stamp duty cut should be extended warns housing industry

Thousands of house sales could fall off a cliff as the stamp duty holiday comes to an end, experts have warned.

A rush of buyers created by the stamp duty cut is clogging the purchases pipeline and causing delays.

It means some buyers may miss the stamp duty holiday deadline of 31 March next year if they don’t press ahead with their deals, especially given the festive period in between. 

This three-bed terrace house in London's Abbey Wood had a guide price of £175,000 and is sold subject to contract

This three-bed terrace house in London’s Abbey Wood had a guide price of £175,000 and is sold subject to contract

The stamp duty holiday was brought in for six months to stimulate the housing market following lockdown, with the removal of the standard rate of tax up to £500,000.  

The measure has been successful in boosting the market amid the pandemic, creating a surge in demand.

But a backlog of purchases has built up due to pent-up demand from lockdown being unleashed. 

In a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, industry bodies have called for the stamp duty to be extended to allow them time to deal with the pent-up demand.

In the letter, they explained: ‘Failure to complete those transactions could see the breakdown of chains with consumers potentially financially unable to continue with the purchase, as they would have to find funds to pay stamp duty.’

It is calling on the Government to announce before Christmas an extension to the stamp duty holiday.

It also wants the Government to introduce a way of smoothing the end of an extended stamp duty holiday to prevent another cliff edge further down the line.

This four-bed detached house in Erdington, Birmingham, had a guide price of £195,000 and is now sold subject to contract

This four-bed detached house in Erdington, Birmingham, had a guide price of £195,000 and is now sold subject to contract

It said: ‘By acting now, the Government can release the pressure in the system to allow transactions to complete and avoid a disorderly and distressing period for movers and businesses throughout the market.

‘Any extension or gradual phasing of stamp duty would also help mitigate sharp reductions in consumer demand.

‘More widely, a buoyant housing market drives consumer confidence in the wider economy whereas constrictions on lending and falling house prices lead to reduced consumer confidence and a material reduction in economic activity.’

The industry bodies that came together to endorse the letter included estate agents, mortgage brokers, solicitors and removal firms.

This four-bed detached house in Kirkcaldy, Fife, was on the market for offers over £309,995 and is now sold subject to contract

This four-bed detached house in Kirkcaldy, Fife, was on the market for offers over £309,995 and is now sold subject to contract

Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: ‘The joint letter sent to the chancellor is an important step in protecting those in the process of buying or selling a house that might miss out on the March 31 stamp duty deadline.

‘They miss out because of increased pressure on service providers within the industry which is causing delays for buyers and sellers in the sector.

‘The boom, caused by the stamp duty holiday, has been hugely beneficial for the housing market.

But he went on to warn: ‘The stamp duty cliff edge on March 31 could cause thousands of sales to fall at the final hurdle and have a knock on and drastic effect on the housing market which has recovered well from the Covid slump.

‘We are calling on Government to rethink these timings, so pressure on the system can be released to allow transactions to complete and avoid a disorderly and distressing period for movers and businesses throughout the market.’

This three-bed semi-detached house in St Albans, Hertfordshire, was on the market with a guide price of £300,000 and is now sold subject to contract

This three-bed semi-detached house in St Albans, Hertfordshire, was on the market with a guide price of £300,000 and is now sold subject to contract

It comes after property website Zoopla revealed this week that  50 per cent more home sales than usual are waiting to be completed.

Record high sales agreed post-lockdown has led to some 140,000 more homes currently progressing through the system than at this time last year, taking the total of unfinished transactions to 180,000.

Zoopla said sales agreed peaked in August, rising 62 per cent, and were up 40 to 60 per cent between July and October compared to the same period last year – but demand has now slowed back to pre-Covid levels of early March.

With an average 100 days to complete an agreed sale those looking to beat the stamp duty deadline need to agree a sale before mid-December.
Richard Donnell – Zoopla 

The high volume of business means it may take longer than the typical 100 days for transactions to complete – and prospective home buyers need to agree a sale before mid-December if they want to avoid missing out on a saving from the stamp duty holiday, Zoopla said.

Richard Donnell, research and insight director at Zoopla, said: ‘There is a large pipeline of sales to complete by Christmas and the 31 March 2020 – with an average 100 days to complete an agreed sale those looking to beat the stamp duty deadline need to agree a sale before mid-December.’

Paresh Raja, of bridging finance provider Market Financial Solutions, said: ‘There could be a backlog of sales that could result in many buyers missing out on the holiday due to the fact that lenders are simply not able to release the volume of loans needed.

‘The Government has two choices. The first is to extend the SDLT holiday beyond the current deadline. 

‘The second is to put into place arrangements to ensure that buyers who have agreed to a sale prior to the deadline still qualify for the tax relief should the sale occur after 31st March 2021.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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How POSH is your nosh? From your marmalade brand to your loaf, what you eat still defines your class

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how posh is your nosh from your marmalade brand to your loaf what you eat still defines your class

SOCIAL HISTORY

SCOFF  

by Pen Vogler (Atlantic £20, 480 pp)

How do you pick up your peas from the plate? I ask because the humble little legume turns out to be the ultimate challenge when it comes to polite eating, the Mount Everest of etiquette.

Debrett’s, the bible of good manners, is firm on the matter. ‘It may be necessary to use mashed potato to make peas stick to the fork, but it is incorrect to turn the fork over and scoop.’

The notion of using a spoon — clearly the most practical tool for the job — or the underside of the fork is anathema, leaving polite folk prodding away with their forks, one pea per tine, or squashing lots of them on to the back of their fork, then seeing the whole dollop drop on to the table en route to the mouth. Ridiculous.

Pen Vogler explores the conventions surrounding food and its relationship to our social class in her new book Scoff (file image)

Pen Vogler explores the conventions surrounding food and its relationship to our social class in her new book Scoff (file image) 

But here is just one of a myriad conventions that turn eating into a minefield of social embarrassment —highlighted in a new book by food historian Pen Vogler.

What and how we eat, what we call our meals — tea, dinner, supper? — and where we take them — at a table, in front of the telly? — are indicators of where we stand (or, better still, sit) in the social order.

Food and class are inextricably mixed as much today in the supposedly democratic 21st century as they were when medieval barons dined ‘above the salt’, putting the lower orders in their place.

Vogler calls her book Scoff, which sums up her thesis because the word has two dictionary meanings. One is to eat food, the other ‘to speak to someone in a scornfully derisive or mocking way’ (OED). With every mouthful, we are identifying our own aloof position on the social ladder while looking down on others.

Food, then, is much more than mere sustenance. It’s a marker and a weapon. As the 19th-century French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin pithily put it, you are what you eat.

In the ever-flourishing British class system, shopping baskets are an open recipe book, revealing who we are. Typhoo or Earl Grey, Kingsmill or sourdough, stir-fry or Pot Noodle, battery or free-range, Golden Shred or Oxford Marmalade, salad cream or mayonnaise? Your preference points to where you come from and where you’re going (or think you’re going).

And what is U and non-U, to use Nancy Mitford’s damning definition, changes with such speed and irrationality that it is all too easy to be caught out, left behind, ridiculed.

Today’s crushed avocado cult may yet backfire — excised from the must-have shopping list because of its impact on the environment — and you don’t want to be caught with guacamole on your face.

Victorian invention the fish knife, has been branded unacceptable by etiquette experts despite being elegant (file image)

Victorian invention the fish knife, has been branded unacceptable by etiquette experts despite being elegant (file image)

Take the fish knife, a Victorian invention, with its unique curvature and elaborate decoration.

Now, it is to be found in unsold bundles in antique shops or tucked away at the back of cutlery drawers, but never, darling, never, to be seen on a dining room table. Perish the thought.

It’s decades since John Betjeman cast them into the outer darkness with his sneering ‘Phone for the fish knives, Norman’ in How To Get On In Society, a poem about social climbing in which he also ridiculed the dear old doily and the serviette.

A few years ago, Tatler magazine decreed that the once-shunned ‘pardon’ was now socially acceptable again, but there was no such reprieve for the fish knife. ‘Fish knives,’ it ordained, ‘will never be fine.’

Though why remains a mystery. As Vogler points out, they are not only elegant and pretty but perfectly shaped for the job of pulling the delicate flesh of fish away from the bones.

Once upon a time it was de rigueur to have different cutlery for different purposes. Posh Victorians had forks for everything — terrapin, lobster, snail, sardines, pastry, dessert, even bread — with dinner guests faced by an armoury of weapons when they sat down.

Pen claims we put more time and energy into judging people on what we eat and the way we eat it, than the quality of the food itself (file image)

Pen claims we put more time and energy into judging people on what we eat and the way we eat it, than the quality of the food itself (file image)

Each was supposedly identified by the size, the number of tines (three to five), the length of the tine, the curve and whether there was a wide and sharpened edge for cutting pastry.

Knowing which to pick up for which dish was the trick, and a way for the upper-class host to ward off (and, better still, confuse and humiliate) the ungenteel.

Such pretension has now gone. One-size fork fits all, and we’re probably the better for it. But possibly not for long, as we head towards a forkless society with fast food of fried chicken, burgers, pizza and sandwiches taking over.

Fingers are now perfectly acceptable for much of our eating, as they were centuries ago, before etiquette (and cutlery) intervened.

Napkins, and how you wield them, are another key social indicator, though utterly illogical.

The best way to ensure a napkin does its job of protecting the eater’s clothes is obviously to tuck it under the collar and let it drop down in front of you. Except that is so working class! So polite people hide them on their laps, and dribble gravy and red wine down their shirt fronts, putting class before common sense.

But that’s the British way. According to Vogler, we traditionally put more time and energy into judging people on what we eat and the way we eat it, or worrying about what people think of us, than the quality of the food itself.

Pen said the words we use to describe various meals throughout the day tell us about the class divide (file image)

Pen said the words we use to describe various meals throughout the day tell us about the class divide (file image)

She writes: ‘In a country where even letters are first or second class, eating, with its innate social function and attendant rituals, is a way of firing up rivalry, envy and social unease.’

Or as the Hungarian-born humorist George Mikes put it: ‘On the Continent people have good food; in England they have good table manners.’

Nothing tells us more about the class divide over food than the words we use for the various meals throughout the day. Any British antennae will pick up something about your background if you have ‘dinner’ at midday and ‘tea’ in the early evening.

From the age of the diarist Samuel Pepys, ‘dinner’ has been pushed back by about eight hours, as the toffs chose to eat later and later to distance themselves from the annoying, encroaching middles — and the middles moved later and later to emulate them.

During the 17th century, ‘dinner’ was around midday; it was mid-afternoon in the 18th century. Most working people had a communal main meal — dinner — in the middle of the day.

SCOFF by Pen Vogler (Atlantic £20, 480 pp)

SCOFF by Pen Vogler (Atlantic £20, 480 pp)

For farm workers this was usually made by the women of the farmer’s household and eaten together around the kitchen table, or in the fields.

Those working in mills in Manchester and Leeds, in the factories of the Midlands and the mines of Wales, Newcastle and the Midlands worked from 6am to 7.30pm, with 40 minutes to eat their dinner in the middle. It’s a distinction that survives to this day. Northerners, particularly the working classes, still have ‘dinner’ between noon and 2pm and ‘tea’ in the early evening. Southerners (and swanky Northerners) just have ‘lunch’ and ‘dinner’.

Lunch — or ‘noonshine’, as Jane Austen called it — was born because fashionable society kept on dining later and later to put some clear blue hours between them and the mercantile and professional classes.

This can cause confusion even today. Vogler cites writer Helen Fielding, who grew up in Yorkshire and was invited to her tutor’s house for dinner in her first week at Oxford.

‘We duly turned up in the middle of the day to be greeted by kindly astonishment and a gracious attempt to explain how things worked in the sophisticated world we were about to enter.’

This excellent history is full of fascinating facts about the food we eat. I never realised that sandwiches and desks were invented at the same point in history. Nor that the English were cooking and eating macaroni pasta way back in 1390.

More tellingly, it pricks the pomposity of many of our social conventions surrounding eating. So I say feel free to gobble down your peas in any way you like — ideally on a fish knife, of course!

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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