There is a strange story I came across today about the ludicrous convention of gift giving between heads of state.
Quite rightly, in this country and America the recipient doesn't keep the presents, which get warehoused or hung on a government building's wall or quietly burned at the weekend, or if unsuitable for burning, become landfill. Some may circulate the globe being surreptitiously passed on, like a dodgy bottle of Romanian Merlot.
We no longer set sail for the South Pacific with looking glasses and enamel brooches to woo the savage chief. Desalination plants - yes, bartered for new trade agreements and other progressive economic things. But we have enough tea sets, thanks. And a breeding pair of rare piebald Bactrian camels - you're too kind, but really - no.
The greaseball Sarkozy, when Chief Frog, gave the Obamas 'several Hermes bags' among other items valued at 27 grand. SEVERAL - it is clear that he wished Michelle to pick her fave and keep it, yet he must have known that protocol denied her the opportunity to do so. It tells us , I think, that Sarko was probably not so honest about giving up all the gifts his visitors gave HIM..
And what was our own dear Prince of Wales doing giving them a 15-piece TEA SET? Isn't this exactly the thing that causes a certain type of Brit-baiting American (including Obama, I think) to put on a fey lah-di-dah English accent and mime drinking tea with their little finger sticking up in the air? Come ON, Charles - use your imagination. A collection of Prince Albert rings and chains, perhaps, or a few antique golf clubs from St Andrews, given that Obama spends more time on golf courses than any US President since Eisenhower.
I think the whole racket should cease immediately and be replaced with imaginative charitable giving. If they want to indulge in a little private cumshaw, given personally and privately, that seems a much better arrangement. They probably do it anyway when they get to know each other well enough, like Ron and Maggie, for instance.