Friday, 30 June 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 30 June

Often our unthinking responses can cause real pain or distress to someone sensitive

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas
It is thanks to a Modern Manners piece you wrote several years ago that I decided to take out a subscription to The Lady for my mother (whose birthday was the following week). I am glad to say that she has been a very happy and keen reader of this excellent publication ever since she received her first copy.

The article in question discussed unexpected visitors at meal times. I had just had a Sunday lunch interrupted by an unexpected relative with his children. Apart from staying in the room where my guests were, the children also helped themselves to items of food that were on the table. Of course, none of this was checked by their parent. It was a few days after this that I saw the edition of The Lady in question, with your column on unexpected guests. I was impressed by your good and sensible advice and subsequently took out a subscription.

I have every intention of maintaining this subscription. Almost two years ago, I had the misfortune to have a near- death experience and suffered anxiety and panic attacks as a consequence. My great passion, cooking, helped me a lot, as I could focus on something that gave me pleasure and, for that time at least, keep what would otherwise be tormenting me at bay. For 20 years, I helped run a guest house on Lake Garda and did all the cooking. I knew that if I could keep the Italians happy, then I was doing a good job.

So, when I cook, it is with real passion because I am giving the best of myself. It also means that the person receiving the food must be able to accept with good grace. I suppose what I ask is that, even if the food is not to certain guests’ liking, that at least the effort and time to prepare be appreciated. I should say that I always ask beforehand if guests have any particular preferences or requirements.

Although health-wise, things are improving for me, it can still be quite a devastating blow when heartfelt invitations are offhandedly dismissed. You may say there is no way of knowing that someone is experiencing distress and difficulty. The response to this is we must show kindness and thoughtfulness at all times, and be mindful of the consequences of our behaviour.

Colin MacAllister, Belfast

Dear Colin
Yes! Manners matter. I often urge readers to be patient when others are rude. They don’t mean it, I say. But you show powerfully how painful it can be when you’re on the receiving end. I have every sympathy. Particularly in the matter of turning down invitations. How often we are insensitive and casual when refusing an invitation.

Please send your questions to thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Dress

In the recent hot weather, the editor and myself bizarrely took to complaining about the London plane trees: too much shade. But that’s another matter. In Michigan, it’s been even hotter than here. Hannah Pewee was kicked out of Woodland mall for wearing shorts and a tank top. She says she wasn’t the only one there so dressed. What’s more, shops in the mall advertise tank tops. I know that in a heatwave, decorum may be less of a priority but I can’t reconcile myself to men in flip-flops on Oxford street. And extraordinarily flimsy little shorts. Even so, the ‘rules’ are hard if not impossible to determine. Shorts can be smart.

Vests are wrong for men but not for women? If you outlaw Hannah Pewee’s tank top then what do you do about Yvette Cooper’s sleeveless summer dress for the state opening of parliament? In any case, it’s always a mistake for the ‘authorities’ to impose a dress code. Harrods tried it years ago and got nowhere. These shopping malls are snobby, bossy sort of places I’ve had run-ins re parking my bicycle outside shops in shopping malls. They don’t want a bike spoiling the look.


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