Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Beat the Heat, Beat the Cold 5

Renoir was a fan
Alan Davies is as unstarry as it gets when he turns up at a north London cafe with his greying hair cut short and his coat zipped up against the cold. He asks the staff very politely if they could turn the heating on, but when they can’t work out how to do it he suffers in silence rather than strop like a diva. (Daily Mail interview with Alan Davies)

Caro Stow-Crat opines:
In this hot weather, I use a paper fan I bought in China Town, and I got some lovely electric fans in the pound shop. Living in a draughty old historic house can be an advantage.

Can I just point out, though, that if you wear trousers, skirt or dress made of thin material, thong panties are perhaps not the perfect base layer?

There are no social rules any more – but what about queueing and correct use of the checkout divider? Yesterday a young man let me go in front of him in the checkout queue – what a gent!

Never comment
on what other people are eating, even if they’re on the “clean, paleo, detox” diet and longing to tell you all about it.


I'm sure none of you would do this: You bring a bottle of the kind of wine you like (very dry, ready chilled) to a party. The host/hostess puts it to one side and never opens it, and gives you a glass of warm chardonnay.

And don’t forget Miss Manners’ good advice: If you know your IQ score, don’t tell anybody.


Upper-middle-class Upwards frown on sitting next to an electric fan when it’s hot. They’re not quite sure if they’re allowed to own one. What about the planet? And besides, fans are a) too pleasant and b) too practical. In earlier decades, Upwards never approved of sitting too close to a fire, or the TV.

As a teenager, I got on a bus on the hottest day of the year. Opposite me on the bench seat were three ladies in thick woollen overcoats. Sweltering, I opened a window. They frowned and said, “Are you warm? We are not!”

In an office with no opening windows, turning on the aircon can be perilous. Sometimes it gets turned off because "draughts give you flu".


Etiquette in general
Some people imagine etiquette is all about this kind of thing: "As at dinner, it is the duty of a hostess to give the signal for leaving the room, which she does by attracting the attention of the lady of highest rank present by means of a smile and a bow, rising at the same time from her seat." The same site gives rituals for arranging your train over one arm correctly when attending a vice-regal drawing-room.

Anyone harking back to the “simpler” days of the 1950s has got it all wrong… Amy Vanderbilt’s Everyday Etiquette… offers advice of enormous complexity on issues such as, should a gentleman always remove his hat in an elevator? (Alexandra Frean in The Times) Miss Manners (Judith Martin) was asked the same question by a polite fellow who said he would like to remove his hat, but then what do you do with it? Miss Manners suggested he clutch it lightly to his chest. She also hoped that a few remarks about the weather to a lady lift-sharer might lead to a cup of coffee and – who knows?

“The unreal set of manners and bizarre systems of etiquette that they force themselves to follow, like our own upper classes.” (New Humanist) OK the poshos have some odd codes, like tilting your soup bowl away from you and not wearing black stockings in the country, or any jewellery but pearls before dusk, but they’re not really as bizarre as people imagine.

Middle-class unwritten rules are far weirder. Writer John Mortimer had a schoolfriend to stay, who at the end of the holiday remarked: "I'll tell you something about your father. He can't see. He's blind, isn't he?" Mortimer comments: "It was a question our family never asked. Naturally, I didn't answer."

You didn’t raise your voice in public, because you didn’t want to attract attention to yourself, and you didn’t want everybody to “know your business”. Some older people are still a bit shocked at others talking loudly in public. Upwards and Weybridges even kept the radio or gramophone turned down low.

Women used to be warned against “clanking” jewellery and “squeaking” shoes – circa 1880. Were you supposed to glide silently? Rustling taffeta petticoats were probably out, too. (It was fashionable to wear several very long chains, and multiple brooches. How did you stop them “clanking”?) Your voice was supposed to be soft, gentle and low as well. This got transferred to jangling charm bracelets when these became fashionable in the 1940s and 50s.

More temperature tips here, and links to the rest.
More etiquette here.



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