A witty yet practical short guide to modern manners that, like Lynne Truss, takes a subject often treated in a stuffy, high-handed way and deals with it lightly and humorously.
Until recently, social conduct (as it was known), was illogical but easy. There were rules, and everybody knew and adhered to them. ‘Don’t hold your knife like a pen.’ ‘Offer to pass your neighbour the salt/pepper/water/butter. Don’t wait for them to ask.’ ‘When you have finished, leave your knife and fork at six o’clock/four o’clock/nine o’clock with the prongs of the fork turned up/turned down.’
Scarcely a trace remains now of this bizarre labyrinthine world of ‘manners’. ‘Come as you are,’ we say. ‘Be yourself.’ But the age of emails and metrosexuality has thrown up a whole new set of social dilemmas. We don’t know what to do. Our free-and-easy ways have left us in a vacuum of uncertainty and embarrassment.
Take the nightmare of social kissing. How many times? In what order? Where? At what stage of an acquaintanceship? What about thanking? Do you have to thank at all? What do you do if a guest wants to smoke in your house? What do you wear to a dinner party? Do you have to bring a bottle? How do you deal with vegans?
We just don’t know how to behave any more. Something has got to be done, and Thomas Blaikie, author of ‘You Look Awfully Like the Queen’, is the man to do it. He’ll tell you how to tip, how and when to ‘drop in’ on a friend, how to send condolences (is email good enough? will a text message do?), how to avoid being a party bore, how to react politely to flirtation from someone of the opposite sexual persuasion, and myriad other 21st-century social traumas.