Martyn McLaughlin: With the obscene grazing on planes, it's no wonder we call it cattle class

THE last time I checked, a meteorite hadn't turned Stansted Airport into a smouldering Abbadon where the horned one and his locust minions danced amid the rubble and flames, sacrificing the two remaining teenage virgins in Britain in honour of the impending arrival of mankind's new giant ant rulers.

The chap in seat 7C, however, did his utmost to suggest that, since Armageddon was upon us, we might as well enjoy a carbohydrate-rich last meal. Such was the haste with which he destroyed a ciabatta, it had been digested before the wrapper was off. When the drinks trolley teetered out of sight, a packet of cheesy biscuits had fallen victim to his appetite. By the time the scratchcards were dished out, a Twix was meeting an ignoble yet dignified end, each finger slipping silently into the black hole of his gullet.

Apart from following Nicola Sturgeon to her hairdresser to ascertain whether she pays him or vice versa, I do not consider myself the prying sort. But it was impossible to look away from this snack serial killer: only an hour before, I witnessed his consumption of a full English breakfast in a departure lounge caf.

Snacking, it seems, is an omnipresent force that knows no limits – least of all the vast mark-ups on in-flight grub.

Consumer watchdogs this week warned passengers they face paying through the nose for airline foodstuffs, pointing out that Ryanair charges as much as 16 for a sandwich, crisps, coffee, water, and red wine.

"It's hard to believe some airlines charge so much for food and drink, especially when the cost of the flight is often so low," was the flabbergasted response from Lorna Cowan, the editor of Which? Holiday.

What guff. It is precisely because the flights are so cheap that the meagre, reheated fare costs an arm. In any case, such a report is meaningless whatever the alarm its conclusions cause. Expense will never deter passengers from opening their wallets and stomachs, even on the short flight times of budget airlines. It has become a human condition that whenever in transit, we are obliged to graze – no wonder the term cattle class exists.

Even a perfunctory bus or train journey has become punctuated by the popping of crisp packets and the sound of melting chocolate being stirred around by eager tongues.

I have every sympathy for the time-pressed commuter who squeezes in a nutrition hit on cramped, early morning journeys, but I doubt the majority of those who partake are plagued by hunger.

It is, more likely, a combination of boredom and elephantine greed. We have already banned smoking on public transport. Next, we must line up the sweet chilli Mini Cheddars in our sights.

Prettily produced parcels are beyond the pale for males

SECRETLY, today is cause for celebration among the nation's menfolk. Birthdays, anniversaries and times of heartfelt apology aside, we need not wrap another present for a full year.

Gift-wrapping is an act women cherish, part of the entire Christmas experience. Every little ribbon, tag and flourish is symbolic for the special place the recipient holds in their hearts.

Men, on the other hand, see a necessary evil. Hence the genius of one company's 'Crap Wrap' service, which uses ripped paper, uneven edges, and brown parcel tape, so as to fool wives and girlfriends into thinking it was all their own work.

It is not, you understand, that we are incapable of emulating a woman's artistry, but nature has denied us the temperament and poise to spend an hour in the company of Sellotape without uttering two hundred profanities and draining four bottles of mulled wine to numb the emotional trauma.

&#149 POPE Benedict XVI has infuriated and perplexed many by suggesting the battle to save humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is as important as protecting rainforests. "I'm gay and I work for an environmental organisation," one reader pointed out. "Does this mean I'm going to hell?"

Though I do not agree with the Pontiff's message, I was rather taken with his all-encompassing and Euro-cheesy rhetoric, what with mention of the "language of creation" and an "ecology of man".

Has he been listening to his Dana International albums, by any chance?