Friday, 21 August 2015

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 21 August

What to do when on a private holiday, neighbours just happen to be in the area. Thomas Blaikie explains

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
Our French holiday villa looked absolutely perfect: miles from anywhere in lovely country. But lo and behold, the Stoddart- Hunters from down the road just happen to have booked a place in the next valley and want to ‘get together’. But don’t you think there’s a right to privacy while on holiday? Aren’t they being tactless? I’m thinking of cancelling the whole thing.
Mina Flintcombe, Scarborough

Dear Mina,
This trauma of one’s social life pursuing one when abroad on holiday afflicts many at this time of year, with intriguing variations. Some, unlike yourself, are overenthusiastic for a rendezvous. ‘You’re going to Italy!’ they scream at some random acquaintance. ‘So are we!’ That they’ll be at different ends of the country either doesn’t occur or seems as nothing from the comfort of home. Thus they end up slogging for three hours on the motorway just for the novelty of meeting up in an exotic location.

Those who own properties abroad have a different difficulty when they’re in residence for perhaps a brief time and must entertain their friends who are also over from the UK and lodged in their own second homes. Or there are acquaintances you’ve invited to drop in if nearby your holiday home who actually do – in which case I’ve no sympathy. If you don’t want people to drop in, don’t suggest it.

Some of you will have heard me say this before: I’m all for embracing social opportunities however irksome they seem at a distance. You never know what might happen. Besides, you may be imagining now that all you’ll want to do in France is lounge on a lounger all day but once there you may be through with that sooner than expected. The Stoddart-Hunters could turn out to be the thing you crave above all else. It might be you hollering for them from your valley. Unlikely, you may say – in which case why not make a loose arrangement, before departure, to meet them one evening in a local restaurant? Say, ‘Don’t feel duty-bound if it’s too much trouble.’ Best to take full control from the outset, if you don’t want the S-Hs sprawled round your pool for the duration.

If you really can’t face them you’ll have to resort to subterfuge: no phone signal; Wi-Fi not working. Or pretend to have cancelled the whole thing as you threaten to do, then go around for two weeks in that French valley disguised as Madonna. That might be more uncomfortable than swallowing the pill of meeting up with them. What a tangled web, etc. It would be rude though to ignore their suggestion of getting together, which is an invitation of a kind.

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


This isn’t really about feet on seats but more the thorny issue of whether to take action over bad behaviour in public places. On the Heathrow Express the other day an American man demonstrated his arrival in our glorious country by placing his feet possessively on the seat opposite. Whereupon I gave him a look. Half a minute later, the feet had been removed. I was thrilled although not untainted by a sense of making up for the American War of Independence.

Feet on seats (with shoes on) just can’t be borne in the home or in public places. I noticed that Prince George had his feet on one of the Queen’s sofas in the recent christening photo taken at Sandringham. At Sandringham or in the more refined confines of the Heathrow Express, a stern look might be effective. Feet at once taken down. Ideal for the reprover barely to have to lift a finger, let alone speak.

But what about elsewhere? Those on buses, etc, who put their feet up deliberately to provoke can’t be dealt with by one person alone. There must be a mass uprising against them. Even so, they shouldn’t be doing it.

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