Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 27 July

It’s not easy knowing how to be polite in the modern world. This week: Bossy officials, rude notices. Can we remain courteous and gracious during the Olympics? Thomas Blaikie advises

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,

I feel guilty for striking a negative note about the Olympics, but am I alone among The Lady readers in thinking that the London 2012 organisers are a thoroughly rude lot? I'm exasperated by bossy notices beside the road, such as: 'Plan Your Journey. Don't Be Late'. Then there are those dire warnings everywhere about traffic chaos, blocked railway stations and queues at passport control. It's as if everything's got to give way to the Games, and if you're even remotely thinking of going about your own business, you can forget it. How should we respond when officialdom treats us so discourteously?

Harriet Blanchard, Plymouth

Dear Harriet,

I couldn't agree with you more. Let's just hope the Olympics, now it has begun, turns out to be the happy, universal celebration it's supposed to be. But, in the run-up, the organisers have succeeded in inducing anxiety and irritation in equal measure and have overlooked a crucial lesson – that the more courteously you treat people, the more courteously they will treat you.

Yes, indeed, the notices by the roadside (we have all seen them) are rude – and unhelpful when the online map at (you're nowhere in these Olympics if you can't get online) is incomprehensible. So anyone trying not to be late is immediately rendered helpless.

You might be interested to know that if, like me, you are the lucky recipient of tickets, they arrive by Special Delivery in a vast package with mountains of orders, backed up later by a nearhysterical email telling you when you're to arrive and what you can bring in. You'd never guess you were about to have a once-in-alifetime experience for which you've paid good money.

You're also right to point out that anyone with the remotest notion of having other things to do during this period (surely the majority of the population) has been given not the slightest glance. Special Olympic lanes will create traffic chaos, railway stations and certain roads are expected to be completely inaccessible. Have the authorities shown a glimmer of concern?

Then there's the related matter of the horrific queues at Heathrow airport to get through immigration. Frustrated travellers have started slow hand-clapping in protest. Airport officials want to draft in extra police to clamp down on bad behaviour. How about an apology and improving the service?

Of course, dear readers, you will do your best to queue calmly, if called on to do so, chatting amiably with your fellow queue members and making the best of it. But the high-handed attitude of officialdom is concerning and a mistake. Write in to complain afterwards. Bombard them.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER.


WHAT TO DO ABOUT... Holiday mealtime attire

I'm sure many of you will be spending the Olympics period far away in the sun. Or you plan to be poolside somewhere hot later in August. But what if, at mealtimes, men are topless and women in vestigial bikinis, especially at lunch in a private villa with friends or at an outdoor beach restaurant? Quite a few of you have written to point out that bare feet are especially unappetising as an accompaniment to a dietary lunchtime market salad.

I had a rich aunt who, in the 1960s, was equipped with all sorts of complicated sun rig for her winter holiday in Jamaica with her surgeon husband. Her bathing suit was, of course, ribbed and boned, but she had a matching gown to go over the top of it when poolside cocktails and elegant snacks were offered. Nowadays we're so simple. All the same, ladies should be adequately covered when nibbling with others beside the pool or on the beach. Those cotton wraps are ideal. Men, we hope, will put their shirts on – and shorts, if their swimmers are the Speedo type. Feet will just have to be borne, I'm afraid.

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