Also known (to the more medically inclined) as Type I Hypersensitivity is a disorder of the immune system.  I have some allergies myself – some known, others more mysterious.  For example, I know that I have an adverse reaction to chrysanthemums after they’ve been sitting in the vase for a day or so – but this is fairly easy to manage.  I also seem to be allergic to something airborne here in the countryside of South Cambs, or so I deduce given that my symptoms tend to be worse when its windy and non-existent when I visit major conurbations (oddly, there is no estate agent inspired show called ‘Escape to the City’ or ‘Escape from the country’).  It’s not hayfever – that would be far too normal for yours truly- as I am afflicted at quite different times of year.  I think fungi may be involved: their spores may be taking revenge for the sheer number of mushrooms I have consumed over the years.

Some allergies have gained greater public awareness than others and I think nuts may be in the gold medal position.  This rather puzzles me as I believe the most serious culprit is the peanut, which isn’t a nut at all but a legume.  Packets and tins of peas and pulses – close relatives of the peanut – are not marked with dire warnings to protect the sensitive, whereas a packet of largely unrelated hazelnuts warns me (in a rather unnecessary way) that it contains nuts.  So too does a packet of walnuts, but it is being economical with the truth: a walnut, like the almond, brazil and pecan, is not a nut.

Those with an adverse reaction to gluten or cow’s milk can also expect to find warnings to protect them from inadvertently consuming their nemesis.  However, I know people who cannot touch celery and coriander (OK, touching might be alright, but eating is definitely undesirable) and they are, as yet, are offered no such protection, having to rely instead on their own eternal vigilance.  Such are the vagaries of life I suppose.

A few days ago, I was eating in a vegetarian restaurant and discovered a new, and rather alarming series of warnings on the menu.  As well as tagging those dishes that were bland enough to satisfy vegans and others that may be afflicted by a rather loose definition of nuts, it showed those dishes that were “nightshade free”.  Worryingly, given the famously deadly nature of nightshade (as I child, I used it to demonstrate the common fallacy that the natural was automatically good for you), only two dishes were actually nightshade-free – though worry not, dear reader, I survived despite not selecting either of these “safer” dishes for my supper.

Further research suggests that some poor unfortunates may be unable to eat from the family Solanaceae (of which nightshade is but one member, in the branch named for Atropos, the Fate who cuts short the thread of life) which denies them spuds, tomatoes, the aubergine and physalis: to name but a few.  I think if I was unable to consume such a wide spectrum of staples (and the Chinese gooseberry), I might begin to wonder if I wasn’t cut out to be a vegetarian.  Still, I have reason to believe that perseverance may be a virtue (though perhaps not one of the seven deadly virtues) – so good luck to them!


I eat quite a lot of nuts and while you are very much what you eat, I don’t think you can really use this statement to deduce anything about my mental health.  Many of these nuts come from Waitrose and they used to come in numbered packets (00-99) with each number representing a different type of nut, seed, dried fruit or combination of the above.  However, in recent weeks this has all changed with nuts (and other comestibles) in new (un-numbered) packaging and re-branded ‘lovelife’.  I am unsure whether it is we the consumer or the nuts themselves who are being encouraged to say ‘no’ to suicide – or perhaps organic walnuts are an aphrodisiac and the new brand is by way of a recommendation for victuals that will spice up a couple’s gland games.

All very well you may say, dodgy re-branding is a fact of modern life – even for the Waitrose shopper – but why do you bring this up?  Well, while I was waiting at the till earlier this week, I spied a copy of the Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine (free to Partnership cardholders!) which displayed a strap line to the effect that lovelife was “the range everyone is talking about”.

I like to think I get about a bit – only last night I was hob-nobbing (well, more cava and canapé-ing, if honest) with the fragrant Mary Archer and the Mayor of Cambridge (among other luminaries) at the launch of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival – but despite the celebrity-inflected gay social whirl that is my life, I had encountered no-one discussing a newly re-named range of edible tidbits from the John Lewis Partnership (and this despite the fact that last night’s canapés were consumed in the 3rd floor brasserie of the John Lewis store in Cambridge).  Where am I going wrong?

It is not as though this is the only example of me being left out.  I must be one of the few people left in the UK never to have been offered (or even mentioned in conjunction with) a vacant position in the Sugarbabes or the role of England football manager.  I will readily admit that my singing voice may not be the Mae West and my grasp of the off-side trap lacking – but I doubt I could do a poorer job than the current incumbents.

Worse, the News of the World has failed to make even a desultory effort to hack into my phone (either landline or mobile) – which may make me unique in this country.

What does a chap have to do to get noticed?  I had thought that after leaving school the weekly ritual of being picked last (or penultimately) for every sporting team would be at an end, but it would seem not…