The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 21 September

Dear Thomas,

I found my neighbour’s cat run over in the road. Quite dead, unfortunately. I couldn’t leave the poor thing lying there, so I brought the corpse home in a box. Then I prepared to break the awful news. Linda was terribly distressed – but when I opened the door, there she was, holding her cat, completely alive. I’d got the wrong one. A happy ending, you might think. The only slight hitch was: what to do with the unknown dead cat.

Linda volunteered to return it to the pavement where I’d found it. Just as she was about to lay it down, though, our other neighbour came by with his young children. She just couldn’t bring herself to explain that she was dumping a deceased cat in the street. It was all too complicated. She panicked and said it was her cat. Once they were out of sight, she disposed of the body in an inconspicuous place, I’m sorry to say. All things considered, my question is: what is the etiquette of finding your neighbour’s cat dead, which turns out to be alive?

Rosamund Parker, Birmingham

Dear Rosamund,

And now, of course, your other neighbour’s children are going to be spooked when they see Linda’s cat prancing around, perfectly all right. Let’s hope they lack advanced skill in cat recognition. What you describe might be a farce involving Mr Bean, a hideous pile-up of one thing going wrong after another, if it wasn’t rather awful. I think you’ve been a good neighbour.

A lot of people would run screaming from such a scene rather than carry the mortal remains away with them and face telling their neighbour the worst. Identity is easy to mistake, especially of a cat not your own. And once you’ve got an idea into your head…

By the sound of it, Linda behaved beautifully as well, not getting cross with you for alarming her and taking responsibility for the mystery corpse. It was a thoughtful idea to return it to the place of death in the hope that the true owner might find it. I suppose the next time this happens, you will be a little more cautious that you’ve got the right animal in the first place, but should you nevertheless repeat your mistake, Linda will check thoroughly that the coast is clear before replacing the body in its original position.

All the same, the dilemma remains as to what to do if you find any dead pet in the road. You’re supposed to report it to the council. But you may wonder what they will do about it – undignified disposal? You might, if appropriate, move the body to a more attractive, intermediate but nearby resting place. You could also post details (not photos obviously) on the community website if you have one, or on sites like www.nextdoor.com.

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


 WHAT TO DO ABOUT...The meat counter

My last prom at the Albert Hall (where would we be as a nation without the Royal Albert Hall?) was an ecstatic occasion, a tremendous event. Joyce DiDonato sang Berlioz, with Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting. I’d never heard her before, and I know little about Berlioz, but was thrilled with both. Apparently, so was everybody else – except for the man sitting right behind me. Why, oh why? The minute the music stopped, all through the applause, there he was, loud drilling voice, airing his views. No need to even try to make out exactly what he was saying. You could have told from five miles away, just from the tone, that it was ‘me, me, me… I know more than anybody else… I’m superior… I’m above even the world-class artists who are performing. Showing appreciation is quite beneath me. No, I’m going to busy myself mansplaining what key the music is in, what Berlioz really meant, how this lot don’t really know what they’re doing…’ so maddening on a really special occasion. No point trying to cold-stare him into silence. This man just adored the sound of his own voice.

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