Friday, 11 August 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 11 August

Thomas helps a young girl understand what ‘tactful’ means and how to tell her granny she prefers shopping to museums

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas
My name is Tanya. I am nine years old. The trouble is my granny has got a holiday programme for me. But I don’t like the archaeological museum. Last year we went to the Isles of Scilly but there weren’t any shoe shops. I can’t remember the names of plants either. My mother says I’ve got to be tactful but I’m not sure what that means. I’d like to go to Whipsnade. Can you help me?
Tanya Cox, Hertfordshire

Dear Tanya
I don’t think I’ve had a nine-year- old writing to me before. How nice! It may comfort you to know that when The Queen was a little girl (now she’s 91) her granny, Queen Mary, used to take her to museums and it was terribly boring. Once they had to slog round a huge show all about the agriculture of Nigeria. But Queen Mary thought since Elizabeth was going to be Queen when she grew up she ought to know things like that. She was trying to help.

So I’m sure your granny wants the best for you and you must try not to get cross because sometimes it’s a bit boring. You have to try to say in a nice way that maybe you could do something else, or other things as well – that’s what ‘tactful’ means. Also maybe you don’t hate all of the archaeological museum, just some of it. Sometimes they have really horrid things like rats’ skeletons or a stuffed snake, which are quite exciting to look at because they’re so horrid. Or you could do some drawings, or there’s a quiz you could do.

You could say to your granny that if you’re good in the archaeological museum and write a little diary about it or something like that, then perhaps she could take you to Whipsnade as a reward. If you tell her what you’d really like to see at Whipsnade, she’ll think you know something about it and it would be actually worthwhile going there and you’re not just going to get bored.

Then once you’ve done that, you could ask if, as a special treat, you could go to a shopping mall just for a short time. Your granny will probably hate it, you see, and you’ve got to think of her as well. Also she won’t want you to grow up always buying things you don’t need and spending lots of money and not having anything left for food. You could try to convince her that you are what’s called a ‘discriminating shopper’ – that you’re only going to buy the best shoes for the best price. I know another little girl who is very good at choosing in shops. Her mother is very pleased with her and thinks that when she grows up she will have a shop of her own.

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

WHAT TO DO ABOUT… British tourists abroad

At this time of year, we always love to hear of our compatriots falling into disgrace while on holiday abroad. It’s the same old story: riotous drunkenness leading to failure to keep clothes on, failure to keep mouth shut, let alone be respectful, etc. But this year a thrilling new trend emerges. Abta, the organisation that represents travel agents, reports an astronomical rise (434 per cent ) in the number of food poisoning claims being made by British tourists since 2013. ‘Food poisoning’ is in any case usually the result of stress caused by travel, but these claims are definitely false. Shady characters, sinister ‘associates’ of legal firms, lurk outside resorts encouraging people along this path of dishonesty and even coaching them in how to get away with it. Hoteliers in Mallorca say that in the first nine months of last year £42 million was claimed in damages. It’s only the British that get drawn in to this disreputable game, which was how they got found out. What has become of us? There’s now a crackdown. Detectives have been installed in some resorts and false claimants face prison sentences. Quite right, too. What a stain on the national character.

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