Thursday, 01 June 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 2 June

Thomas Blaikie believes in freshly laundered bedlinen in the spare rooms –every time a bed is slept in by a guest

Dear Thomas
I was shocked to say the least when I stayed overnight with a friend and she said, ‘I think the bed’s been changed. In any case it was only slept in one night.’

It seemed I was just to put up with it. What do you think? Is this what things have come to these days?
Derrick Cumberland, Dundee

Dear Derrick
There’s a lot that can go wrong with beds. I’m as sure as I can be that the sheets weren’t fresh when I stayed with some friends at their semi-stately in the M4 corridor. But I could never prove it. We’ve touched before on the perils of putting up in other people’s houses. So few maintain hotel standards in their own homes.

Linen may have been washed, but has it been aired sufficiently? If folded up damp it will smell. Others make the bed too far in advance so it has gone stale by the time it is occupied. If a bed has been occupied for one night, then is offered to another visitor a week later, it will have been festering quietly in the meantime.

Returning from President Kennedy’s funeral, Debo Devonshire and her husband Andrew hitched a lift in the Prime Minister’s aircraft which was diverted to land somewhere in the Midlands. So it was a night at Chatsworth for Sir Alec Douglas- Home. Debo told the PM to hover serenely above the sheets throughout the night. She said she hoped Princess Margaret didn’t notice, when she stayed the following weekend, that the bed had been slept in.

Possibly even in the grandest houses, a tradition carried on of saving on the great labour of laundry if you could get away with it. Of course there was an assumption, which can’t be relied on these days, that sleepers would be wearing pyjamas. I’m sure there are some, even perhaps quite a few, who take the same approach today. But it certainly isn’t on to explicitly offer a bed that has been slept in. This is something you keep quiet about and hope to get away with, to say the least. It’s no good either, saying, ‘I’ll change it if you like.’ Few guests will be so bold as to say, ‘I do like.’

But really is it so troublesome to whisk off the sheets and bung them in the washing machine? You can get away with ironing just the pillowcases to give that crisp, hotel effect.

I recommend attending to the beds straightaway, then you won’t lose track of who slept where in your numerous guest bedrooms. How many of you, as at Knole, the great stately in Kent, have 250 bedrooms? It would be terrible to put someone in a pre-used (or pre-loved, as we say nowadays) bed, without meaning to.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Bridesmaids

Now we know, since the Pippa Middle­ton wedding has finally taken place. There was much discussion in advance on the subject in general: grown­up bridesmaids might resent their frocks or compulsory hair­dos. There’s the problem of who to choose. Someone’s going to be hurt if they’re left out. Small children are charming and short­circuit all the rivalry and outfit worries posed by older brides maids.

You can have a lot of them, so a lot of girls, at least, can have their turn as a bridesmaid and never have to say, ‘I was never a bridesmaid.’ But somebody’s got to supervise the tiny ones and carry the train. Pippa found the perfect and, as far as I know, novel solution. Get someone who is a mother, dressed as a wedding guest (so all bridesmaid’s dress horror is done away with) to supervise the children and manage the train. In this case, the person was, of course, the Duchess of Cambridge. The drawback: she got into all the photos. Did she take the lime light? Well, she is Pippa’s sister after all. Where else does she belong but beside her on her wedding day?

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