I RECENTLY had occasion to visit the Institute of Modern Etiquette. This is a fine organisation which has provided me with the wherewithal to navigate through 21st-century social interaction without which I would no doubt be either shunned, arrested or murdered.
But so much of its work goes unnoticed, so this week I interviewed Simon Flatley, the director of the Institute, to get an insight into its valuable role.
GARY BAINBRIDGE: Why don''t you tell me about the Institute''s history? SIMON FLATLEY: Well, it became apparent, following developments in sexual politics...
BAINBRIDGE: Sexual politics, heh.
Sounds like something Chris Huhne would do.
FLATLEY:. .. .and information technology that the world had changed and etiquette had to change with it.
'No, please, BAINBRIDGE: What are they doing over there? mum, no!' work FLATLEY: Ah, that''s our IT team. They''re exploring appropriate responses to the news that one''s mother has added oneself as a friend on Facebook.
Early findings are that sticking fingers in one''s ears and shouting "No, no, no, please, mum, no!" is ineffective.
BAINBRIDGE: And that one? FLATLEY: Ah, that''s the middleclass guilt team. They look at the best ways of dealing with tradesmen and the working classes - how many times one has to make a cup of tea for the plumber, how to ask a cleaner to do a task without blushing, that sort of thing.
BAINBRIDGE: And taxis? FLATLEY: Oh, that''s a sub-section of its own - we''re exploring whether one can get away with rounding one''s tip up to a pound if the meter has only just that second gone to 40p, and what to say when the taxi driver asks one which team one supports. …