The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 11 July

As soon as the sun comes out, clothes come off and eating in the street is on. But why? Thomas Blaikie ponders the answer
Dear Thomas,
Am I alone in sensing that manners are worse in summer, particularly in hot weather? Recently I’ve seen people in the most extraordinary clothes (or no clothes) wandering the streets.
Sonia Reeves, Bromley

Dear Sonia,
I rather agree. The menace of barbecues I’ve already mentioned. In fine weather, in summer, people get out of their homes. It’s a disaster. They’re everywhere, milling about, making a noise, eating in the street, generally carrying on, in towns and cities, as if at the beach. One ray of sunshine, these days, and we’re all on holiday. The greatest horror is the clothes, as you say. This week I went to Harrods for the sale in salmon slacks and a blue shortsleeved shirt with a tribal design. I felt quite wrong. With black trews it would have been all right. Then I saw a family in Knightsbridge. The two teenage boys had been allowed out in vests and shorts as if for sporting activity. One of them got up like this would be too much – but two! I don’t think we want to see this kind of thing in our towns. Thirty years ago, my aunt’s up-to-London outfit in all weathers was a Jaeger suit. Then there was the time her granddaughter showed up at Leicester Square for the cinema not in a skirt. In those days, the West End really meant something.

There’s a knack to giving the most skimpy outfit a formal lift – think of Pharrell Williams in those shorts at the Oscars. But I know exactly where the line is to be drawn – vests. Men in vests in towns. Shorts can be risked if the legs are fit to be seen and bronzed. The shorts themselves must be fitted (not those awful combats) and not boil-washed. No doubt some of you will draw the line elsewhere but vests will do for the time being. Should you give a man in a vest a sharp look? Perhaps best and more enjoyable to vent privately.

As for clumps of people milling about eating ice cream, blocking your path, while enjoying themselves, you could biff them lightly with your shopping bag so they make way, then stream with apologies as you sweep past. If they are European students you might consider speaking in their language.

What about eating in the street, a likely feature of fine weather? Sometimes they’re talking at the same time. One can eat a chocolate bar, a fondant fancy, a dried apricot, anything dry and/or small, while in transit along the pavement. Hefty sandwiches or baps must be consumed sitting down on a bench or wall. But if you’re a Lord, according to Jilly Cooper who encountered one in youth, you can do what you like. I haven’t left space for summer noise nuisance. Do write in with your suggestions.

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


This means while you’re ecstatic and applauding, you’ve got to manoeuvre to let the curmudgeons out. They’re grim-faced and not applauding. But you go to a live show to be part of an audience, swept up in the moment. Clapping at the end is your chance to give something back, having been given to so lavishly. At the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, certain audience members bolt from their seats, ploughing others out of the way, as soon as the conductor has lowered his baton. Apparently they are important patrons and wish to show that they can do as they like. Elsewhere, the spur to early exit is a need not to be blocked on the stairs with the general mass leaving the theatre. Somewhat superior, don’t you think? Just possibly there is a ‘last-train-home’ panic but people should have found out the curtain-down time beforehand and planned accordingly. Really, there’s no excuse. If you’re a victim of this savagery, feel free to be tart: ‘The performance isn’t over, you know, until the applause has died down.’