Archive for the 'Out & About' Category

Barbecue Etiquette

BarbecueThe British summer is well underway and this can only mean one thing – the barbecues have been wheeled out from storage and are taking pride of place in we Brits’ gardens. I shall be honest now and say that I loathe a barbecue and think they should be outlawed in Britain, or other countries where the weather is not regularly conducive to outdoor dining.

The only type of barbecue I can just about tolerate is a sit-down with cutlery affair. If there’s proper napkins to hand then all the better. Barbecues where you have to stand up and wolf a hot dog or chicken kebab down are ghastly affairs. I like food and wish to enjoy it at leisure.

My parents have lovely barbecues (if indeed that is not an oxymoron). We all sit on the terrace at their Gloster outdoor furniture (that has been properly washed down before use), under the often-superfluous parasol, food is placed in serving dishes down the middle of the table, and we all sit with blue gingham napkins on our laps to protect the chinos. It’s very civilized and we all look like we’ve been lifted off the page from the John Lewis catalogue. It has much more relaxed atmosphere than an indoor meal in a dining room, yet one can enjoy the breeze and gentle heat. These ordeals where you have to stand up and find an unclaimed piece of patio in which to stand are so tense. You have to worry about whether you have salsa running down your chin, focus on making sure your burger doesn’t fly out the other side, and then find where you left your glass so you can have a much needed drink.

The secret of successful dining (indoor or out) is to think about your guests’ every need. I have found with stand-up barbecues that hosts are much more laid back about everything and often overlook the most basic of details. It’s only good manners to think about your fellow diners when you are hosting.

Here are our tips for ensuring that whatever style of barbecue you do this summer you get the etiquette right. (The cooking is down to you.)

Barbecue dos and don’ts…

- If you opt for a stand-up affair, consider a service table where you can place the dishes of food as well as cutlery, glasses, jugs of water, juice and the like, as well as napkins…

- …Ensure that you have put out sufficient napkins for your guests. Even if they are paper ones, make sure that they have something to wipe those sticky hands

- Men: however good you think your barbecue skills are, don’t start giving the cook unwanted advice

- Beer should always be served in glasses and not drunk from the bottle. The last time I drank out of a bottle I was 18 months old

- If knives and forks are not put out you have permission to use your fingers

- Kebabs: if eating sitting down with cutlery then hold the top of the kebab stick and using your fork slide each chunk of meat onto the plate. If eating with the fingers then hold both ends and gnaw away (inelegant but acceptable)

- Burgers: watch how much sauce you put in the middle of your burger as when picking up and biting in to it the sauce could shoot out and give your fellow diners a nasty squirt

- Peas: often seen at barbecues and quite hard to eat at the best of times. Hopefully a host would only serve these at a sit-down affair. Don’t turn your fork over in the right hand, keep it in the left and push the peas onto the tines. Or, use some of the other food as ‘glue’ (mashed potato is excellent for this)

- Whilst the men traditionally will cook the meat and often taken all of the credit, don’t forget to thank the ladies or those who prepared the salad, vegetables or puddings!


William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner 

Oh We Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside

Holiday time is here again and it is time to pick up the bucket and spade, pack up the suitcases with clothes that won’t be worn, and load up the car to the gills… a stressful time at best, compounded by a typical summer of downpours, sea mist and cool winds.

But, this summer so far has shown that there is a glimmer of hope and temperatures have been warmer and sunnier than the last few years at least.  My family and I have just returned from the delightful Devon coastal town of ‘Chelsea on Sea’ aka Salcombe, and it struck us that a word on the etiquette of English travel might be topical.

Salcombe Panorama

The Englishman Abroad is easily spotted – very pale skin with patches caught by the sun after months of cashmere cover-ups – a battered straw panama hat and trousers somewhere just below the knee which can make the wearer look like a sack of potatoes. As one would expect in Salcombe, there were degrees of Jack Wills (its original home town) preppy chic; Abercombie & Fitch copy-cat versions and a degree of the White Stuff surf brigade, though on the wrong coast.  Not just for the teens, there were plenty of parents sporting the same looks, with additional gravitas added by Henry Lloyd and the occasional spotting of some Ralph Lauren here and there.  All this added up to a glorious technicolour of fairly smart and expensive gear, entirely in keeping with the now astronomical prices being charged for a sandwich and a latte (£8.50 for a cheese sandwich in one popular water-view pub!).

What was apparent, thankfully, was a complete lack of the popular recent look of men of certain post-teenage years wearing a singlet vest with knee length shorts – not a good look, even in the Caribbean.  We were pleased to note that not only was the trend absent, but the unthinking, rude and uncaring behaviour which seems to accompany this fashion was also absent.  People queued politely and in line for the ferries to and from East Portlemouth and South Sands; there was no pushing in the ice cream melee and guests chatted jovially at the bars.  What a marked contrast to Oxford Street yesterday in the sweltering heat, when so many tourists (more than 70% of which appeared to be European) jostled, shoved and on occasion just barged through the throng.  Doors shut in faces, hot sweaty bodies dressed more for the beach at Blackpool than one of central London’s premier shopping areas, and a great deal of what our friends in the USA term ‘jaywalking’.

Not everyone has the ability, financial or otherwise to make it to Salcombe, Rock or Cap Ferrat this year, but wherever one’s holiday and business travels take you to, do remember some common courtesy and basic good manners.  Be polite, be friendly, be patient and dress for the occasion.  And take an umbrella!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

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The English Manner has some wonderful English made umbrellas and will shortly have a range of travel products available for our travellers.  Do get in touch for details, and in the meantime we are pleased to recommend some ‘must haves’ for travel this year.

Some of our best loved travel essentials include ‘Travel Pak’; a comprehensive set of anti-bacterial gel, wipes, tissues, body wash and tissues, with a fantastic added bonus of disposable loo seat covers.  Available from Amazon at around £16 rrp, and some good chemists.  We also recommend a failsafe pashmina in a neutral colour, our favourites are from Pure Cashmere and come in a range of colours with some glorious pastels and hotter shades for cooler nights.  Check out a good eye mask and ear plugs for air travel, and arm yourself with an indulgent set of bath time essentials from Jo Malone – we love the lime and basil shampoo and the grapefruit fragrance.  For cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing, look no further than the mini La Prairie set, which comes complete with a hanging wash-bag and make up pouch, perfect for any location.

For those heading to South Devon, check out supper at Dick & Wills, a new waterside brasserie in Salcombe with a fabulous view.  Not cheap, but the best food we ate during our recent stay; and a latte at the Wardroom with or after breakfast is a treat – cheerful fast service, nicely presented home cooked food and a full frontal view.  Further afield, try the Oyster Shack at Bigbury-on-Sea and the Sloop Inn at Bantham, just beside a brilliant beach.

Step in Line! The Etiquette of Queuing

Napoleon said we were a nation of shopkeepers, but I think he should have said we were a nation of queuers. Everywhere is a queue: in the shops, on the roads, abroad, on the telephone. And at the moment with the January sales, a lot of us may be waiting outside our favourite shops hoping to get a good deal on something we’ve had our eyes on for sometime. But, as with every aspect of life, there is a protocol that should be followed.

1) If you are with several people, enter the queue as one group. Don’t take it turns to reserve a place for your entire party. Think how annoying it must be to think, after a ling time waiting, you finally reach the front except for the one man in front of you and suddenly, out of nowhere, his five relatives join him, making your wait even longer. This is especially prevalent at theme parks.

2) Keep children under control. No free-range children, please. I saw an example of this the other day at a supermarket. Two mothers were gossiping away as they waited to have their purchases seen to by the cashier; their two ‘adorable’ children frolicked around the legs of other shoppers and nearly knocked an elderly gentleman over at one point: the mothers did (thankfully) apologise to the man but didn’t bother to control their children.

3) Be patient – everyone in the queue is the same position. I did once have a man get cross at me for the length of time he had been waiting, but it was nothing to do with me: I was standing behind him, anyway. Equally, if there has been a long queue, when you get to the desired point, try to be as brief as possible to ensure that others behind are not kept waiting.

4) Before you enter a queue (if it’s a lengthy one) make sure you’ve gone to the loo so you don’t need to disturb the rest of the line trying to get out. As silly as this may sound it does happen. If you leave the queue you cannot expect to come back two minutes later as fresh as a daisy and take up your old place. Others will not be happy about this.

5) Respect the personal space of others. There is no need to stand body-to-body in the queue, doing so will only irritate people and may heighten an already fractious situation. Also, if you are a smoker, now is not the time to light up – save that until you are well away from the queue.

6) Probably the most frustrating of all queuing faux pas is queue jumping. Quite simply: don’t! On my one and only visit to a nightclub I happened to be in a queue to get to the outdoors part of the club (no silly music out there!) and someone tried to push in. I think under normal circumstance they would have got away with this as everyone else would have been too drunk, doped and disorderly to notice or comment. Sadly for this one poor boy, I was totally sober and swiftly admonished him and sent him on his way to the back of the queue. That was the only positive I can draw from my nocturnal experience.

The British love a good queue but there are still who break the rules mentioned above. It is interesting to note than in America, a ‘queue’ is practically unheard of: they call it ‘standing in line’. I was once told – and I’m not sure how true this is – that ‘queue’ is not in all American dictionaries. That said, the rules still apply wherever you are!

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Modern Student

A teacher at my old school once remarked to me in a conversation about higher education, “University is a reward for the intellectual, where one can do as one pleases and do very little work for a period of three years”. However true or false this may be, it seems that many contemporary students have misinterpreted this concept. It is certainly not a rest or lapse period for decency and basic courtesy.

Student life is something that most of us have looked forward to from our early teens: we break away from our parents and begin to become our own person. We become domesticated, we become mature; we become adults. Alas, it isn’t quite as straight forward as that. The average student dresses in baggy, comfortable clothes, goes out drinking at least five times a week, and probably comes close to (or actually partakes) in dealing in substances of disrepute. We are only young once, however, so perhaps such behaviour is acceptable.

Yet, just because we are students, it doesn’t mean to say that we actually have to behave like them. Nevertheless, this is not a call for us to attend lectures in morning suits and address our peers with high reverence and grandiose language. A modern, savvy student is someone who respects and considers those around him. Many adults get cross with students and their lifestyle – perhaps they are jealous – they argue that they are slovenly and uncouth. Maybe they are right: there are times when one really doesn’t want to be formal or worry too much about what others think.

However, I argue that University is a journey, a bridge. It marks a transition between childhood and adulthood. There used to be no word for the inter-regnum, until someone created the concept of a ‘student’. A majority of students subconsciously believe that we become adults the moment we graduate, and this grants us with an excuse to behave as we wish for the three or four years in between. This is not the case. We become adults during the period of our enrolment. Some will grasp the (really quite straight forward) concepts of adulthood sooner than others.

As I say regularly, good manners are a skill for life, which will stand anyone in much better stead than any degree or qualification. Clarence Thomas said, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot”. Think what you could do with both.

NB: Educated people go to ‘University’. The rest go to ‘Uni’.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Clapped Out: Concert Manners

6a00d83451c83e69e200e54f2a78db8833-800wiGood manners are not a thing of the past and apply to all aspects of modern life, including concerts. We’ve all been at one where the person behind you starts explaining loudly what’s going on to their friend, or continually rustles their programme. Here are some important tips to remember to ensure you behave correctly and respect other concertgoers.

In the Auditorium

If other audience members arrive to take their seat, which is beyond yours, the polite thing for gentlemen to do is stand up to let them have a clearer passage. Women should turn their legs in the direction the person is travelling. People sitting at the end of aisles should get out and stand in the aisle until passage is clear.

Coughs, sneezes and sniffles should be ‘caught’: make sure your wardrobe on the evening includes a handkerchief. If the ailment persists, leave the auditorium until it subsides.

Share your programme (American’s call it ‘Playbill’) with others if they ask. There’s no need to be possessive.

During operas, it is usual to applause after the overture, an impressive aria, the end of a scene or act, but never whilst someone is singing. At concerts, it is expected for you to clap between different compositions but never between movements. ‘Whooping’ is never correct. We’re at Mozart not McFly.

At the End of the Evening

Do not leave during the encore or whilst the orchestra is bowing. Wait until the house lights have been taken up before you move.

At the end of the concert or during the interval, save your elaborate critique until you’re behind you own closed doors. Don’t try to impress others by shouting loudly about technical aspects of the music or performance.  Others may have enjoyed the night even if you didn’t; there’s also a chance one of the ‘star’s’ family or friends could be around you.


William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner



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