Posts Tagged 'English'

Super Servants, Super Service

The English Manner has long used the phrase ‘super-service’ when training in private households, yachts, planes and hotels.  To our minds, this means the employee reaching their utmost potential and giving 110% to their tasks, ensuring that nothing is left to chance and that the needs of every guest or household are anticipated before they even know they desire it!

Domestic service has become fashionable in the media in the past few weeks thanks to the fabulous ‘Downton Abbey’ and a revival of the old favourite, ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, and we applaud this as there is no doubt that working for others in this way has become something to be looked down upon in the eyes of the world, and is no longer recognised for what it is: a fabulous career path with the potential to travel, broaden your horizons and skill levels; and good potential rewards – and relationships –  for life.

Downton Abbey staff

The staff of ITV's hit Downton Abbey

But the tide is turning and we are getting daily enquiries for traditional training with a modern twist – for the ‘super-servant’ – a personal concierge who can multitask (women do this as a matter of course!) juggling diaries and schedules, dinner parties and driving, school runs and swimming pool maintenance, alongside purchasing property, wines and antiques and balancing portfolios of fine art with treasury bonds.

Economically it made sense for staff to live in, now they are earning so much money in these high profile roles that they often own their own homes, and without the financial need, they and their employers welcome the privacy and space afforded by shutting the front door at the end of the day, unless they can afford the mews house next door!

Days though are usually long, and often involve extensive overseas travel, constantly changing schedules, and sometimes an innate lack of understanding of any form of private life or personal ties.  These roles are not for the encumbered, they are ideal for the sophisticated with an eye for detail, with an understanding of how to enjoy the finest things in life, without crossing the line.  Both parties have to learn to keep their distance otherwise disaster strikes; nannies have always accompanied the family on outings but did not usually join dinner parties, and in a bygone era, everyone knew their place.  Most people under the age of 60 do not have any personal experience of private staff whatsoever.  As a result, our attitudes have changed, and most employers now feel uncomfortable around their staff, either over compensating by charm or, more often than not, by being standoffish and plain rude.  It is our task to educate the employer as much as the employee, and show them how to respect those who work for them and with them.  If that is achieved, high morale and retention follow.

Most staff at the highest levels now have their own assistants but the hierachy is nothing like the days of ‘Downton Abbey’ when the local villagers would vie to work in the ‘big house’ rather than in the mill, the mine or even on the land.  In London most junior domestic staff come from overseas, precisely because working for others has been regarded as the lowest of the low by we British for some years, and we are trying hard at The English Manner to educate young people to start to train for domestic service.  Many who might have taken a gap year will now miss out on a university place:  what better way to start work than to train for a secure household as a mother’s help, cook or housekeeper?  Our sister company, The Household Academy, runs regular classes for traditional training in these roles, as well as bespoke training for those who may have already begun their career but who want to make the leap to House Manager or PA, and need to acquire the extra skills and confidence to do so.

London is now home to a vast tranche of overseas wealth as well as UK based super-rich such as hedge fund managers and City bankers.  Money rules now more than ever before and with that wealth comes the need for presentable, well spoken staff who can turn their hand to any task.  Let’s put some pride back into the household and instead of allowing the plum jobs to be taken by those who have seen the opportunity from Australia, America or Italy, encourage our young people, as well as those who perhaps are leaving military service careers in early middle age, to go back to basics and train in the traditional methods of private service but with a modern twist:  money rules, and the world has to prove it can rise up to the challenge of servicing it.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, 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.

Fit for a King: Etiquette in the Gym

William working out in the gym

Working out with a smile

The summer is here and many people will probably want to tone up their bodies for the warmer weather. Admirable, but do remember that gyms, like everything else, have an un-written (until now) etiquette that people should follow and respect.

Here are my tips for working out politely.

Good gym kit Make sure your gym kit is clean and presentable. Men should not go bare chested either

Mirrors They are there for you to check your technique and not for preening

Music As with public transport, keep your personal music devices turned down so only you can hear them

Grunting, etc Not allowed, ever! There’s no need for others to be acutely aware that you are working out

Equipment hogging Don’t use a piece of equipment for longer than 15 minutes if there are others in the gym. There may not be a visible queue, but it’s not to say that others won’t be wanting to use your machine

Saving machines Don’t go and drape a towel over a machine you want to use next until you are ready to use it

Gym bores Don’t bore other people (inside or outside of the gym) about how well you are doing with your workout regime, or how your new diet is going. Only tell if they ask – too many people can become boorish when discussing fitness

Not a competition If the person on the machine next to you is doing a higher speed than you, do not worry that you are not as fit as them. Exercise should be taken at your own pace and not dictated by others – you can actually do yourself harm if you try to match others’ speeds

Wipe up! After use, make sure you give sweaty machines a wipe down so they are ready to be used by the next person.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Business Dress on The Junior Apprentice

Last night we had the third installment of The Junior Apprentice, the spin off of Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice. The programme is identical to the main show except that the candidates are ages 16 or 17 and are competing not for a job with the business tycoon but for a business bursary. A lot of the hopefuls have had experience running their own businesses or being involved in some way with the art of making money.

Jordan - he of the shiny suit

However, I have been continually taken aback at the poor standards of dress that most of the candidates have. The first person to get fired was a boy called Jordan. He wore possibly the shiniest suit imaginable. Such suits only look good on Saturday night television and if your name is Graham Norton – for some reason, Graham seems to be the only person able to get away with such an outfit. However, Jordan’s suit was a business/lounge suit and this made it look very cheap indeed.

But for this blog I shall focus on the third episode of the series.

Zoë

There was one shot in the programme that showed Zoë, who clearly takes pride in her appearance (if a little too much), writing. As it was a close-up of her hand with a pen we could see her nails clearly. She was wearing nail polish but it had chipped and cracked and so it looked messy. If nail polish is going to be worn (whether in a business or social environment) then make sure it looks good and is perfect at all times. Regarding make-up, Zoë has a tendency to wear a bit too much (especially for a 16-year-old). She has pale skin and wears striking red lipstick, which set against her blonde hair does cause people to take note of her. In a throw-back to the 1980s, Zoë is clearly a big one for power-dressing, but more-often-than-not she just looks like she’s about to serve us drinks and tell us how to put on our life-vests.

Rhys

Last night’s fired hopeful was Rhys. From episode one he was wearing shirts with collars that were far too big for him, and probably would have been too big for Pavarotti. Although many people complain that they feel restricted when wearing a collar and tie, if you are measured properly by any half-decent men’s outfitters for shirts then this will never be a problem. Rhys also committed the crime of colour-on-colour (in the case of episode 3, black-on-black). He wore a black shirt and a black tie. Never do this! Black shirts look awful full stop; black ties should be reserved for funerals – but really one should never wear the same coloured shirt as the tie (i.e. a plain pink tie would look silly when against a pink shirt).

Tim

There are so many things that annoy me about this candidate’s dress. He has clearly never heard of a razor. Beards are fine, however, Tim’s facial hair is not quite a beard. I would suggest that business people are clean-shaven (unless they are opting for a proper beard). Designer stubble (as he had yesterday – he had given his facial hair a minor trim) is not suitable for the boardroom. Tim also seems not to have heard of a top-button. He is an advocate of the loose-tie-open-top-button look, which, again, should not be found in business. It looks sloppy and lazy (although some may say this is a reflection of the boy’s attitude to business). Last night we saw a close up (for some reason) of Tim’s shoes and socks. He had chosen to wear a pair of green striped socks. You may expect me to slate this choice, but I actually condone it. I am a big fan of colourful socks and I feel that if done tastefully, a man can say a lot his personality through his socks: they give one a chance to show a bit of personality. That said, I have seen all too often people wearing white socks with business suits, which is something that just isn’t done. Socks (if plain and traditional) should match the colour of the shoe or of the trouser.

Adam

Finally, a word about Adam, who also left Lord Sugar’s boardroom last night. His tie was dreadful. The knot was too big, but also too loose. He was trying to go for the big footballer knot, but even so, it should have been tighter. Being able to tie a good tie is a life skill that sadly many are lacking. He also needed to make sure the tie was pulled up to the very top of the shirt. As you can just about see from his publicity picture, you could drive a bus between the top of the tie and the top button of his shirt.

The English Manner offers training in business protocol, which includes dress & appearance. To find out more, please contact us.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Picnic in style at Royal Ascot

Whilst the last few days have seen us enjoying some early summer warmth and sunshine, our thoughts will be turning to the Season and the annual Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

For those who will arrive at the Racecourse by car and want to follow the traditions of this world famous fixture, a picnic, preferably in Number 1 car park, is a must!  But what to eat, let alone what to wear?

There is something very special about a picnic, although in this country the weather can put a serious dampener on the spirits.  Not many of us are lucky enough to have a Butler who will lay everything out, prepared by Cook in advance, but there is much one can do to tailor this to location, guests and budget.

I always advocate keeping it stylish but simple, and they key is always good organisation.  Prepare as much as possible in advance and look for the varied accessories to make the day – both stylish and practical.  John Lewis have some fabulous ideas, as do The White Company and Ikea.

The great thing about a picnic is the informality they impart.  Picnics were the first ‘rule-free’ meals remembered by generations of children.  A relief from constraint, but not entirely free from the essentials of table manners.

Whatever your budget, make sure your guests have plenty to eat and drink, but ensure what you have on offer is easy to eat too.  The last thing one wants to worry about with a pretty silk dress and floaty hat is drips of mayonnaise or squirting peach juice!

A rather nice summer menu could comprise of seasonal asparagus (just coming to the end but should still be nice in mid June) steamed and served at room temperature with a softly boiled shelled egg (quails eggs work too but are a nuisance to shell), snipped garden chives and a drizzle of vinaigrette, with shavings of good English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Serve with good unsalted butter and fabulous bread and you have a wonderful first course. An alternative might be roasted peaches or nectarines (easy to do in the oven with a little water and a dot of butter and sugar), served with slices of top quality prosciutto and slivers of creamy goats cheese.

For main course, you cannot beat a rare cold fillet of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, and a new potato red onion and flat leafed parsley salad, served with rocket leaves, pea shoots and seasonal lettuce.  For the vegetarian, perhaps a good frittata.

Try your hand at a vanilla pannacotta made with greek yoghurt, served with the freshest of English strawberries in individual moulds, or perhaps a timeless favourite, a flourless rich chocolate cake with crème fraiche or clotted cream.  All easy to transport, and serve – essential if you do not have a bank of staff to help you!

Ensure some lovely crisp napkins, tablecloths and comfortable cushions on folding chairs and tables, with perhaps a Bellini made with fresh peach puree and a good Prosecco to set the scene and you have the makings of a perfect day!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Royal Ascot: Dress & Wardrobe

2010 Royal Ascot is just under a month away. Last year, our post on Ascot proved very popular, gaining the most reads out of all of our entries. This is probably because Ascot is a melting pot and people from all different walks of life can be found here.

Next week we will talk about how to picnic in style at Royal Ascot. This week, we recap on what should and should not be worn when at the races.

Alexandra Messervy, Founder, The English Manner: “Morning suits and top hats are de-rigeur, as of course are the most fabulous hats.  Trousers for ladies are now permitted, but skirts must not be far above the knee, and if you are hoping to enter the Royal Enclosure you will need to apply for a sponsored badge many months in advance, with a reference from a member of the Royal Enclosure.  Top hats should always be black silk, and morning suits can be grey or black – my own preference is grey.  Ladies’ Day is the traditional one to ‘be seen’, when even the more conservative hat-wearer can really push the boat out.  A word of caution though:  if you are not used to wearing a hat, practice putting it on and off and wearing it around the house several times before the big day, and learn to relax – otherwise you will have severe neck strain and a bad headache before you go near the champagne!

William Hanson, Tutor, The English Manner: “In 2008 Royal Ascot was in the news as ladies were turning with too much fake-tan applied and in some extreme cases, they deemed it appropriate to go without knickers. This is never acceptable. Anywhere. For women, it is advisable that cocktail dresses are avoided. Having too much flesh open to the elements at a predominantly outdoor event will only cause goose pimples.  Dress colours that work well are pastels, bright colours, neutrals such as cream and fawn, although fashion changes and each year will see a different colour or shade in vogue. As for materials, linen creases easily and for an event where you may be sitting to picnic (smart race-goers do this in Number One car park), this is not a good idea. Lightweight wool and silk are preferable. Dresses and jackets that can be removed easily if you get too hot are canny choices. Skirts that ride up when you sit down are not, however. The Queen often wears one main colour all the way up (including the hat) which accentuates height and can make shorter people look taller. Umbrellas may be a nuisance but are worth it if it begins to rain. They can be left in the cloakroom if needs be: parasols are naff.”

For further advice on Royal Ascot, please see last year’s (very popular) entry, or feel free to contact us.

UK Leaders’ Debate No. 2: It’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it!

Communication is made up of three parts: the words we use, the tonality of our voices, and our body language. We use all of these traits everyday to let the people around us know how we feel and think.  55% of our communication is through body language; approximately 38% is based on tonality of the voice and 7% on our actual words.

So with this in mind, ding ding, round 2 of the election debate, and they’re off…

David Cameron leans into the podium to show us he is ready for action his tone is slightly aggressive and his brow is knitted. He starts by using the audience members’ name, great for rapport building, whilst maintaining eye contact. The wording David chooses is reflective initially and then he uses BUT; this changes the direction of his answer, allowing him to change the subject. As the debate progresses the hand gestures, a softened fist with the thumb running along the side of the index finger conveys a middle of the road speaker. By the end of the debate David has been adopting the precision grip, hand turned upward pinching fingers together. This implies that he will attend to the smallest details and can be trusted to get it100% right.

Nick Clegg begins in an up right posture, chin in a neutral position, ready to take on the question. He begins with an anecdote about chocolate, adds a pinch of humour and then backs it up in the language of the audience with facts. The words, his tone and body language are all congruent. The hand gesture of palms facing, shoulder width apart, fingers splayed and pointed towards the audience. This is an attempt to connect with them and close the gap.

Gordon Brown starts well with a smug smile, very small hand gestures, strong-planted feet, which give him balance and make him, appear comfortable. The tone and use of language made the audience sit up. The humour card is played with Gordon comparing David and Nick to his two squabbling children. This is quickly followed up with an embracing gesture, arms out in front, drawing the audience toward him. Gordon is using this to say I will keep you safe, very fatherly, whilst influencing you to his way of thinking. The final gesture that seems to appear most frequently from Gordon is the palm down, generally associated with authority and directive behavior. A type of ‘I am in charge and that’s final’!

I hope that when you watch round 3 you will start to notice these gestures and by doing so, get a clearer picture of what is actually being said.

The fantastic thing about all the speakers is that they have been coached brilliantly! I think they will all need to pull something very interesting out of the bag for the next debate.

The poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you are doing speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Too true!

Louisa Miles
Echo Motivational & Life Coaching
www.echomotivates.com


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