The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 14 September

Dear Thomas

The irritating hogging of deck chairs at European resorts by certain nationalities is well documented. Is it the British or the Germans? But what to do closer to home when a fellow house-guest at a friend’s house in France gazumps one re loungers? In this instance I had erected a number of these items after luncheon for a total of six people. Four of the chairs were of superior quality and I had expectations that, having provided for the ladies in the party, I could enjoy the last of the better loungers. But this other guest, who happens to be a resident of Wales, said that as he had purchased two of the top-quality seats he was entitled to preference. I was relegated to a common deckchair. Should I have protested? I must also mention that this same fellow guest asked our hostess to fetch him three rather than two croissants for his breakfast each morning.

I don’t know whether he calculated that the added financial burden was more than compensated for by his lavish hostess gifts on arrival, such as a set of fish knives, premium quality table linen, champagne, foie gras, speciality Welsh sweets attractively called ‘Sheep poo’, not to mention the gravity loungers already mentioned.

Beamish O’Halloran, Wandsworth

Dear Beamish

I am reminded of a well-known media tycoon who would tip £100 on arrival in a restaurant, just in case special treatment were not forthcoming naturally. I wonder if this mysterious resident of Wales shares a similar mentality. Maybe he enjoys priority boarding on Easyjet, for instance, or even VIP lounge access at the airport. Who would not if they could get it? It is not usual for guests in a private home to ‘pay’ for privileges nor to treat their hostess in a proprietorial manner. Only Royalty, when visiting someone’s home, are considered as if the owners of it and take precedence in all matters, including allocation of loungers.

Of course, some people can only put up with the best. If they admit guests or leave their own residence they might have to accept unacceptable compromises such as giving up ‘their’ chair in the lounge or drawing room. Maybe they are only children from a well-to-do background. In childhood, when urged to share their last Rolo, they simply said, ‘Why not buy more?’ Something must be done to help them. Perhaps it is not so preposterous that they should be indulged, especially if they are, in a manner of speaking, paying for it. Next time you visit, you could bring your own lounger, claiming back pain requiring the absolute best from an ergonomic point of view. Where I draw the line though is at three croissants. I can’t bear to think of anyone eating three croissants in one go, whoever they are.

Please write to Thomas at the usual Bedford Street address or email manners@lady.co.uk


 WHAT TO DO ABOUT...The meat counter

There was a bit of a to-do in Waitrose this week. The keeper of the meat counter had her back turned. She was evidently severely pre-occupied with some hideously complicated paperwork, involving figures. I didn’t like to interrupt. Standing there, waiting patiently, I was joined by another customer, who looked at me in a certain way which said, ‘You were here first. You do something about it.’ So it went on for some time, getting worse and worse, with the other customer clocking me as more and more of a fool by the second. Finally,I had a brainwave. How about coughing? I could pretend to cough. After all coughing did such wonders on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, if you remember that incident. And it wouldn’t be so demanding as speaking. And no risk of ‘excuse me’ sounding peremptory. So I coughed. It worked a treat. She turned round at once and we were away. The point I’m trying to make is it took so long to think of such an obvious, clichéd solution. Although, really, she was still interrupted and probably lost the thread of her hideous paperwork anyway.

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