The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 20 April

Dear Thomas

I always ban my cat from the house when I know that, for whatever reason, my guests are averse to her company. Following a recent and rather unpleasant visit to a house where, to my dismay, a young and adorable puppy was allowed by the owners to run riot, jumping up at visitors, clawing at their legs and causing me to ask for him to be removed from the room, or, at least held by the owners on a short lead, a request which was ignored, I wonder what you would consider to be the correct manners in regards to dogs versus frightened guests?

Why was I frightened? I am old and, even with a stick, liable to be knocked over by a rushing dog. I was afraid of being injured and said so. My hosts were kind and very considerate, except in this one respect.

What pet owners should realise is that people have many reasons for wanting pets to be under control: childhood memories of being attacked, allergies, medical reasons, etc, and even, rare though it may be, some people really don’t like dogs or cats in close proximity. Is there some sort of rule on manners for pet owners? I’d be grateful for your opinion. Jane Cosgood, via email

Dear Jane

It sounds as if your hosts were completely carried away. But I have to be careful what I say about pets in these pages and, above all, I must not upset Miss Darcy Bustle, The Lady’s office dog.

In the early 1950s, my mother was having drinks with some friends who allowed their dog to chew at her skirt (she hadn’t noticed, but neither had they, and they were its owners).

More recently, I had to go and see a headmistress in quite a formal situation. Sitting down on her sofa, I encountered a cat. She said, ‘I hope you don’t mind Teddy.’ Teddy’s saucers of milk and Kitekat were outside her study door on a sheet of newspaper. Quite an odd spectacle for visiting parents or naughty pupils summoned for expulsion. The thing is: people are absolutely potty about their pets. They just can’t conceivably imagine that somebody else might be frightened of them, or, as in your case, fearful of injury (really, it’s beyond manners. It’s health and safety, when it concerns an older person who uses a stick). So, what is to be done about it?

I wonder if HM The Queen is to blame and her mother, The Queen Mother, before her. Visitors to Clarence House were warned by thoughtful footmen: ‘Watch out for that one. He’s particularly vicious,’ as Corgis swarmed around their shins.

You could try snapping back, as if yourself a dog. Maybe the only language the owners can understand: ‘No, absolutely not. Get that dog out of here, AT ONCE!’

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

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Mini toiletries

A helpful suggestion from Southend-on-Sea re: mini toiletries. You may recall the Church of England suggested, as a Lenten gesture, giving them up on visits to hotels and bringing your own soap and shampoo. Curious that they didn’t recommend not going to hotels at all during Lent. I’m sure there were no hotels in the desert where Christ suffered for 40 days and 40 nights.

Betty McCarthy writes: ‘We snaffle the hotel mini toiletries to give to the local Soroptimists (Southend-on-Sea), who make them up into gift parcels for the ladies in the homeless shelter or women’s refuge, or who have been rushed into hospital with nothing. I am told they are much appreciated.’

What a splendid idea! A little comfort, something nice for the homeless or those who have been in domestic peril. I particularly admire the idea of giving them to people who are rushed to hospital with nothing. There must be quite a few people who don’t have anybody they can ask to fetch things for them. What better use of lovely luxury hotel toiletries?