Whilst on the tube on the way home recently, a piece in the Evening Standard caught my eye.
An enterprising American, cashing in on the wedding like several hundred thousand other people, has set up etiquette courses for little girls.
The notion of the ‘Princess Prep’ may make people shudder – not least at the thought of the type of mother who’d send her undoubtedly precocious brat to such a thing. Personally, I would suggest that if you want your daughter to see the Crown Jewels, take her to the Tower; and most riding schools I know will happily give an hour’s lesson in exchange for a Saturday spent mucking out. But that’s me.
However, I have come to the alarming conclusion it’s probably not as ghastly as it seems. In my experience, a large chunk of the population – not just spoilt little darlings with social climbing parents – could do with being given a course in basic manners, particularly when it comes to eating.
I have plenty of childhood memories of my parents doing their best to instill in me a cursory set of manners. There were pleases and thank yous; no feet on the chairs; no elbows on the tables and definitely no talking with one’s mouth full.
My slightly barmy great-great aunt did her best on one occasion to undo their hard work by persuading me that it was, in fact, fine to lick my pudding bowl once I’d finished to make sure I didn’t miss any of the ice cream. I got a sharp telling off from Granny and a wicked grin from Great-Great Aunt. She was awesome.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people I’ve come into contact with recently hadn’t been taking GGA at her word.
At risk of sounding like the world’s oldest, crabbiest, stuffiest woman, what in the name of all that is holy has happened to people’s table manners?!
Out for dinner recently, I was horrified at my companion’s total lack of anything resembling polite conduct at the table and have now decided table manners are one of my deal-breakers. There’s just no way I’m going to date a guy if I’m embarrassed by his conduct in public.
It wasn’t just the little things like an incorrectly-held knife (I say little: HKLP is a dumping offence in the books of some people), or a napkin nicety. With his face in close proximity to the plate, he inhaled his pasta with the enthusiasm of a starving orphan, unsure he’d see food ever again.
Unlike an ex of mine for whom manners madeth the man and were of paramount importance at the smart dinners held by his parents, I’m not too fussed by adherence to all the niceties of the British dining table. A little bafflement is understandable when faced with an array of silverware and an aging, old-school uncle who still insists on eating fruit with cutlery.
But I do like people to know what I would consider to be the basics: which hands a knife and fork are held in; which way up the fork goes; and that you don’t talk with your mouth full.
Maybe I should start a class – ‘how not to be an uncouth eejit’. That’d sell, right?
#ExpressBingo: Play along at home
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