Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Forgive Me for Being Rude but Etiquette Is Just Rubbish

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Forgive Me for Being Rude but Etiquette Is Just Rubbish

Article excerpt


The Maths of Modern Manners BBC2 ONE OF the joys of columnar journalism is an occasional phone call from some idiotic hack on a rival publication, which invariably begins with the fawning phrase "we're asking celebrities for their views on ..."

As this translates into "will you please write my column for me, for free?"

I always ask them to phone me again on my " special number" (a premium line charged at [pounds sterling]100 per minute or part thereof), and add that "I'll be most happy to answer your questions on that line until my mortgage is paid off", after which they seldom call back.

Last week, however, someone phoned from a crappy, glossy magazine, asking for travel advice, and I couldn't resist, so I told them "here's a useful tip, based on the science of probability. Did you know that the odds of a randomly chosen aircraft having a bomb on board are a million to one against?

"So, the probability of there being two bombs on board the same flight must be a million million to one against, which is statistically equal to zero.

Therefore, if you wish to travel in complete safety, the solution is clear: simply strap a bomb around your waist before you get on board, then sit back and enjoy the flight. Who'd have thought that mathematics could be so comforting?" At which point, the phone went dead. An entire platoon from the stage army of contributors to crappy, glossy magazines had apparently been drafted in by BBC2 last night to fill out The Maths of Modern Manners.

Appalling people who think that a creche is what happens when two cars collide in Hampstead gave us their worthless views about "high spotties" (house parties).

They were aided by idiotic, pinstriped Peter York wannabees (a lofty ambition indeed), and human froth-stick silly women whose lives oscillate between networking at parties and not working at their pointless jobs in PR.

"If you need a few pointers, we're here to help," said narrator William Franklyn, adopting the condescending Geoffrey Palmer style of sneering delivery that made Grumpy Old Men such dismal viewing, and peddling the old lie that Victorian notions of etiquette still have a place in contemporary society.

Rubbish. They don't, and they never did, because dinner party etiquette was only ever developed to keep the nervous middle class in check and to hide from them the awful truth that they were really just animals at trough; whereas most of the toffs I know have never had any time for such nonsense, preferring to eat with their hands and blow their nose on the curtains.

"If you are going to say something, make it interesting," was one of the programme's key pieces of advice, but sadly the "etiquette arbiters" they'd lined up showed precious little sign of obeying their own counsel-Take, for example, Meredith-Etherington-Smith (living proof that the hyphenated name is the badge of mediocrity), insisting that not replying to an RSVP was virtually a hanging offence, or Charles Mosley of Debrett's, appalled that Geri Halliwell had once dared to arrive at a party after the Queen. …

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