The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 27 July

Dear Thomas

When people, especially retired people, travel so much and go to so many wonderful places, why is there an absolute taboo against the showing of holiday snaps? And these days there’s no projector to be wheeled out, nor screen to be set up. It’s an instant film show on your smart device. Yet I sense a general groan whenever I take mine out. So disappointing.

Muriel MacPherson, Greenock

Dear Muriel

Ah! The slideshow – or even the movie footage. Many of us will remember those evenings of wine and cheese with the curtains drawn, as slide by slide you inched through your friends’ most recent holiday. Or, at the lower end of the scale, the daunting packs of photos produced at an unsuspecting moment, only just collected from Boots. ‘I haven’t had time to sort through them yet,’ the person would say encouragingly before inflicting them on you one by one anyway. And don’t forget the albums.

It’s a shame in a way. I notice that infrequent users of Facebook, when they do ‘post’, it’s usually photos of their travels. Travel does not just broaden the mind, it bucks it up – a perfect tonic. We’re simulated by a change of scene and new places. So, I agree, it’s sad that there’s this prejudice against any attempt to share this pleasure and enjoyment.

Why assume that somebody threatening to show you their photos is going to be a massive bore – but all too often they are, which is the trouble. First of all, there’s the sense of being cornered, that the blow-by-blow photographic account is going to pursue its relentless course regardless of whether you want it. Often this approach is accompanied by hair-splitting revisions, going back over the pictures: ‘No, it wasn’t on the first Monday we had those pancakes, it was the second.’ Then there’s the gruelling attachment to chronology – often a mistake generally, in funeral orations, for instance – the agonising plod, hour by hour, through the days. Lack of commentary, or indeed any useful information at all, is another killer. On Facebook people put lovely pictures of ‘abroad’, but no captions, nothing to ‘hook’ the viewer. When photos are shown on an iPad or equivalent, it’s a similar story.

The truth is it’s hard to be engaging. Just because we’ve enjoyed the holiday doesn’t mean everybody else will. Be selective, think about what others might find interesting and try to bring it alive for them, not just relying on the pictures. On the receiving end as it were, it’s possible to be firm but polite: ‘I’m not so interested in food, but have you got any pictures of gardens?’ Do their editing for them. Make it interesting with questions: ‘What was it you liked about the Caspian Sea? Did you see any interesting nuclear power stations?’

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


WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Waistcoats 

I know the World Cup is well and truly over, but there’s an aspect of Gareth Southgate's saintliness that’s been missed. measured, articulate, sensible, resembling a heron in looks, fine but curious and, of course, not wearing a jacket but a waistcoat – all this has been mentioned. the waistcoats! What a masterstroke! out with dodgy designer nonsense for which football is notorious and in with the dependable look of a 1950s grammar-school master. The great thing, though, not so far noticed: no awful gap between top of the trousers and bottom of the waistcoat. So Gareth Southgate, not just wearing a waistcoat but wearing one correctly. How did he do it? I knew someone whose suits were made to measure by a tailor. But still, a horrid gap between trousers and waistcoat. Shirt showing. A mess. It’s the modern trend for low- cut trousers – in the waistcoat’s heyday, men’s trousers were held up by braces, and the waistband was high precisely to avoid the ghastly lapse of exposed shirt. Incidentally, another World Cup triumph was president Macron of France cheering during the final – in perfectly fitting shirt and suit trousers.