Modern Manners

Dear Thomas

I am writing for your advice on a social situation. On a recent visit to The Wolseley in London, I was taken completely by surprise when Sir Trevor McDonald was shown to the table on my right. The ladies on my left immediately jumped up and went over to his table to request a selfie. He was very gracious and said, ‘I don’t mind at all.’ However, I noticed the waiters apologising to him
for the intrusion. Evidently, he was there for a meeting with documentary filmmakers: I heard the plan for the programme leading up to the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Since the programme has now aired (29 April), I’m not telling tales when I say they were discussing filming in a primary school in Windsor, where children were going to re-enact the Royal wedding. I am a fan of Trevor McDonald and would love to have chatted
to him. Instead, I said nothing and left without my mobile phone, having to ask the
staff to retrieve it for me. How would you have handled the situation?

Alison McAtamney, Belfast

Dear Alison

What a stroke of luck there’s a Royal wedding connection in your letter as we all await the great day! Although, I do wonder whether it was quite right to have children act out the wedding service on TV, as was shown in Trevor McDonald’s ITV documentary, Invitation to a Royal Wedding. Aren’t the words supposed to be kept special, only for use at a real marriage service?

Never mind: Harry and Meghan’s wedding is one to which we are all invited, apparently. So it’s pertinent, at a time when we are all wondering about our nearness to the throne, the Royal Family and people of importance in our country that you ask the question you do. First of all, it’s a bit desperate and ghastly to want a selfie with a celebrity, especially in a posh restaurant like The Wolseley, where Trevor McDonald might have taken refuge in the hope of better behaviour. On the other hand, I’m reminded of the scene in  Feud (recently on BBC Two), where Joan Crawford requires her maid, with whom she is dining in a Hollywood restaurant, to assess how thoroughly other diners are responding to her stellar presence. She’d gone there to be noticed.

Famous people... well, nobody asked them to be famous. And they wouldn’t be famous if we all ignored them. The crucial thing is, is your admiration sincere? If you’re going to be gushing, silly and over-familiar, then keep quiet. Otherwise, there’s no harm in a brief word, ideally as you’re leaving. Whatever the case, make it plain you’re not sticking around for a chat. ‘I hope you don’t mind my saying, I’m a great admirer.’ That will do perfectly. Then clear off.