I had in mind a classic, 50's-style, chrome-look, stainless steel dispenser, and this being mainland Europe (and not a tiny little island in the middle of the Atlantic), I assumed that I would be spoilt for choice. But after visiting four shops (avoiding Bos Equipement Hôtelier - too soon to go back there, although they probably have an entire room devoted to napkin dispensers), we were left with one option. (Note the word "option" not "choice", the latter denoting a variety of things available for choosing between.)
This is what we ended up with …
frosted glass, nice shape, easy on the eye. And when the napkins were inserted it looked like this - all shipshape and Bristol fashion …
but after five minutes …
napkins flopping about all over the place in a sluttish fashion and displeasing to the eye.
So, applying our minds to the "perkiness" factor of the napkins, we considered the following options:
1. Air flow: Two hairdryers, one blowing from either side, would keep the napkins upright. The simplicity of this appealed to BB until I pointed out that the hairdryers would clutter up the table leaving little room for condiments. Marks out of 10: 5
2. Varnishing: Varnish the napkins. Stroke of genius. Until we remembered the primary function of the napkins was absorption. Ok for dislodging a piece of tzatziki cucumber from between your front teeth but not good for mopping up a glass of wine spilt in your guest's lap. Marks out of 10: 2
3. Gravity-driven wedges: (illustrated here by BB on the back of a proverbial envelope) ...
Now we're talking! A wooden wedge placed either side to stop residual flapping about. Sounded impressive but after a couple of trial runs we found that it was tricky to extract the napkins because, for once, it did what it said on the tin and they were "wedged in" and applying force ripped the cheap paper. Marks out of 10: 0
4. Adjustable cramp-based solution: Do away with the glass holder altogether and substitute two book ends with a bungee cord wrapped round to imitate expensive "spring-loaded" model advertised on Amazon ("Customers who bought this also bought Bill Haley Rock Around The Clock"). I liked this cavalier, thinking-outside-the-box solution but concluded that the whole ensemble would clash with my Wedgwood fine bone china. Marks out of 10: 6
5. Catenary: (where y = a * cos (x/a))
Again dispensing with the holder, hang the napkins up in a catenary by stapling them all together and attaching the ends to the ceiling with drawing-pins. Not practical for outdoor dining and once you'd extracted one napkin the whole lot would fall down. Marks out of 10: 1 (because I was impressed by the word "catenary").
So - no perfect 10. Suggestions/comments welcome.