The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 19 October

Dear Thomas

My friend and I often travel together as two widows – always with walk-on luggage only. On our last trip, she insisted on checking in her bag. She said it was easier. I wasn’t happy about it. It meant having to wait at the other end for the case to come through. Now we’re planning a new excursion and the issue is going to come up again. What do I do?

Laura Stanbury, Haywards Heath

Dear Laura

Don’t get me started. I’m so dead- against walk-on luggage, I’m not really the right person to ask. My answer will be skewed.

It’s the hours you have to spend whittling down your packing to fit into the case permitted in the cabin by whatever regime you are condemned to flying with. And then more hours agonising over toiletries: 50ml max. And the whole feeling of being bashed about by random rules and regs.

This weekend, I’m flying to Brittany on Ryanair (bag must be 55cm x 40cm x 20cm) but coming back on Flybe where it’s 55cm x 35cm x 20cm. Got that – 35cm width! I’ve only got a Ryanair- friendly case, so don’t be surprised if you never see me again.

Why do they do this – the airlines? Just because they can? The other thing is – sorry to be a bore – Ryanair baggage must be 10kg max. Flybe graciously allows 15kg. At least I’ll be able to buy an antique in Brittany and bring it back but will have to get the dealer to weigh it before buying.

So I expect your friend thought, quite rightly in my view, that she’d cut out all the anxiety and hours spent leaping through the airline’s hoops, just to avoid waiting 20 to 30 minutes for her suitcase to be delivered on arrival. It’s surely an economy in time, if not money. Plus, you’ve got a hope of having enough clothes to be able to change for dinner.

I know quite a few people, maybe you’re one of them, who just can’t bear waiting for their luggage. They’ve got to shave off that sliver of time. But maybe life’s too short for this sort of thing. Why be in such a hurry?

If you’re really still wedded to walk-on after all the wonderful arguments I’ve made against it, well, couldn’t you put the time you have to wait for your friend to good use? You could be first in the queue for the hire car, for instance.

I’ve got the same problem with the upcoming weekend to Brittany. My travelling companion is, like you, desperate to get out of the airport, so only walk-on. I’ve had to conform to his wishes. But another time I went to Scotland for three nights with Ian Williams of Usk. I begged for check-in luggage because we had evening engagements. It was granted and there were no terrible consequences.

Please write to Thomas at the usual Bedford Street address or email

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...The Lady going 'bi'

The Lady magazine, joining many other distinguished publications, will now appear twice-monthly, or twice a month. Is that clear? Twice a month! Not ‘bi-monthly’ – that’s ambiguous. The National Trust magazine, one of the nation’s biggest sellers, only comes out three times a year. There is something considered and rather grand about restricting one’s appearance to only twice a month. Interesting though re: the vagaries of the English language. Bi-monthly means either twice a month or every other month. Why oh why? How can bi-monthly have come to mean two entirely different things? ‘Bi’ is Latin, of course, meaning ‘twice’ or ‘double’. So I suppose the confusion arises as to what is ‘twice’ or ‘double’ – the month or event/publication occurring in it. But ‘bi-annual’ is apparently not ambiguous. It means twice a year. ‘Biennial,’ on the other hand, means ‘every other year’. But not being ‘bi-monthly’ is a shame: no hint of ‘bi-sexual’ or, better still, ‘non-binary’, meaning not identifying as any gender. So a great trendiness opportunity lost. For now, all I can say is ‘bi, bi’.