Friday, 29 September 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 29 September

Thomas Blaikie on guests misbehaving at christenings and ‘war zone’ telephone noise

Written by Katrina Schollenberger
Dear Thomas
I am a churchgoer but I wouldn’t describe myself as extremely religious. I understand that people who have little or no belief in God might want to get married or have their child christened in church. But it’s a bit much, isn’t it, if the christening is part of the normal morning service and the christening guests arrive late, talk all the way through the ceremony and then leave before the end – so they can start their party in the village hall next door! Plus are flip-flops really suitable dress for church?
Gillian Prentice, Cambridge

Dear Gillian
No, no, no! I am stunned into silence. Of course they should’ve gone through the motions and shown willing. Can this really be ignorance? I don’t think so. How can they not have realised you can’t talk in church – I mean, once they were there?

I tell you what, christenings these days are on a par with Burns Night; in other words, any excuse for a knees-up. No matter that you’ve never been to Scotland, have never heard of Robbie Burns, are in no way Scottish, are living in Devon and so on – Burns Night is absolutely de rigueur. You wouldn’t be able to get through January otherwise. The same with a lot of other manufactured celebrations we never heard of until recently – such as Father’s Day.

I have encountered christening parties emboldened with a huge sound system, barbecue and massive alcohol consumption. Goodness knows what the baby made of it all. Presumably it had to be taken away to be cared for elsewhere. A christening calls for a tea party with one of the layers of the wedding cake on offer. Then the godparents are driven to the train station.

Plainly your christening party couldn’t wait to get into the village hall to start boozing. Vicars up and down the country need to be warned, especially those who have some kind of hall they can let out as part of a ‘christening package’. It’s no good being all lovely and Church of England. Only a tough line will do: attendees must attend, properly and fully in the right clothes. Otherwise no christening.

More radically, the problem lies in the absence of any suitable non-religious ‘welcoming’ ceremony for a new baby, bearing in mind that christening is a ceremony of admission to Christianity as well as naming. One can hardly imagine glorious festivities going on in the usually unprepossessing local register office. I know I’ve just complained about too many new bogus occasions for celebration, but here is a genuine lack.

On the other hand, if parents have no intention of going near a church ever again after getting their offspring christened, what is the point? Why not stage a get- together, wave the baby around before putting it to bed, then proceed with grown-up partying if that’s what you want to do?

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

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Walking and talking

Recently on The Archers, Jennifer was on her mobile phone to her mother, Peggy, who is in her early 90s, while the actress who plays her, June Spencer, is 98. ‘I can’t hear you,’ Peggy kept saying. Jennifer was sounding puffy: ‘I’m talking and walking,’ she explained. Thus it was that Jennifer came across roy with no trousers on in the caravan – with Peggy still on the line. The number of times I’ve been talking to people on the phone and after a bit this clattering and banging starts up at the other end. ‘What are you doing?’ I say. ‘Oh, the washing up’ or ‘sorting out the ironing’ or ‘just going to the top of the house.’ It’s very discouraging. Not only is the din distracting, I don’t think they realise you can hear it. In truth, it’s mayhem. You might as well have phoned up a war zone. Worse, the racket appears to be a violent protest against how boring they find you. It’s so bad, they’ve set about smashing up their home. I always phone from the sofa or, if safe, from the car.

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