Friday, 18 November 2016

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 18 November

It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s time for a jolly good rant about all that’s irksome in this day and age. Thomas Blaikie is happy to join in

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
I know you’re not keen on extensive moaning and groaning, but with winter coming I thought a jolly good rant would be therapeutic. So here’s my list of what I call Modern Malaises: Loud music in restaurants. Ridiculous items to eat off – what happened to plates?

The greeting ‘Hi, guys’. Freezing air conditioning – in Britain! Style over function – eg in hotels and restaurants, taps you need an engineering degree to work out how to turn on. Odd-shaped teapots made of glass with plungers. Menus referring to ‘jus’. Two people sitting opposite each other staring at their phones all through a meal. Hardly any sizes stocked in shoe and clothes shops. Cupcakes – dollops of lurid gunge, not cakes.
Serena Davenport , Aston Clinton

Dear Serena,
Yes! You’re right. You’ve got to give in occasionally. It’s good for you. Loud music – it doesn’t matter how much you pay, restaurants are deafening these days. So get soundproofing in the ceiling, restaurants, like they have at Canada Water Cafe, London – it’s a miracle. Slates, boards, bits of bark to eat off – we will never cease to strive against these outrages. Only last week we condemned ‘Hi, guys’. Will we at last be heard? Freezing air conditioning – a lovely new one and I do agree. In my car my mother always says, ‘There’s an awful draught in here.’ I reply, ‘It’s air conditioning. People kill for air con,’ while trying to work out how to turn it down. Taps, glass teapots, jus, phones – all insufferable. Lack of sizes in shops – we’ve not had this before, but you’re right. New season’s stock – and they haven’t got your size. This happened to me in Selfridges. ‘Go online,’ they said. They don’t want you to have it. That’s the truth. They lay out wares that you can’t have. They’re not shops any more. They’re torture machines. As for cupcakes – how many times have we heard that they’re over, yet on and on they go? Too many people have devoted their whole lives to cupcake production. That’s the trouble. So somebody’s got to eat them.

And now I’m going to add a few of my own… People who block up supermarkets, spending hours peering at the packaged fish section, picking up items, reading the labels, putting them back again. Don’t you know what cod is? Make up your mind and get out of the way! Ridiculous, incomprehensible toilet signs. It’s bad enough telling the difference between the man in the top hat and tails and the lady in evening dress, but when it’s some weird scientific sign or ghastly jokey drivel… ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gentlemen’ will do very nicely, thank you. My final raving flourish – chaotic emailers who don’t stick to the thread. Randomly they start a new email so later you can’t trace the conversation. Or they reply to a previous email that was about something else entirely.

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


After all that, we must have something elevating. First of all, please understand I’m using the term ‘beggars’ because ‘people who ask for money on the street’ wouldn’t fit into the heading. Last night I went to the supermarket. Outside a young man was sitting on the pavement. He didn’t have a dog. I pinned my bicycle to the railing right behind him. When I came out again, I noticed that he was surrounded by food offerings, rather like a Hindu god. Indeed people kept coming up to him with little packages of one kind or another.

As I was unlocking my machine, I fell into conversation with him. Then I thought: I’ll give the poor chap one of my yogurts. So I did. Blueberry with a hint of lime. He delved in a bag and gave me three toffees. So two things. First: I suppose people have got the idea from food banks. Much better to give food than money. Second: charming gesture of the recipient to give sweets in return.

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