Modern manners: Surviving the minefield

Dear Serena,

I have just received a wedding invitation that says I'm not allowed to bring my children, aged three and 18 months, to the church service. I think this is selfish and am so insulted that I'm thinking of boycotting the whole thing. My children are well behaved, and won't be any trouble, so why can't I bring them?

L., Bucks

But they will be trouble, won't they? Everyone thinks their children are immaculate and it's only other people's who let the side down. This is not how it feels when you're trying to make a solemn vow and a voice screams "WON'T!" from the back of the church. A doctor of my acquaintance takes his children everywhere, and ensures docility at formal occasions with the use of a quarter-Valium in a bottle of milk on the journey over. If you have moral qualms about this, and can't bear to leave the little monsters in the hands of a babysitter, skip the church and go to the party afterwards; most marriage services are pretty Identikit, so it's not as if you'll be missing out or anything.

What time do you stop telephoning people at? My parents had a 10-o'clock rule. Does this still apply?

Gordon, Edinburgh

Yes, if you're phoning your parents. Otherwise, you're on dodgy ground if you phone people with jobs after 11pm and freelancers after 3am, unless you're phoning new parents, in which case you should get it done before 8pm. It is also completely (and probably more) impermissible to ring normal people before 8.30 in the morning, and freelancers before 10, unless someone's died or been kidnapped. Also remember the following rule: if your call is going to be more than a minute long, check the TV schedules. If you've had a cold response when calling a girlfriend lately, it's probably because EastEnders, Coronation Street or Ally McBeal are on. Conversely, always ring when there's football on; if they miss a goal they can always watch the highlights on the news.

How long do you have to keep videos of TV programmes for people who have asked you to tape them?

Finny, South Kensington

Obviously, until the next episode of Ally McBeal.

Why is it always me that gets the loony sitting next to them on the train?

Sylvia, Oxford

Someone has to, Sylvia. Just be grateful that you're canny enough to get a seat at all. There is a really simple solution to the loony-on-train question, also applicable if you prefer to have a double seat, or even one of those nice quadruple seats with the tables, to yourself. I have occasionally reserved entire compartments by this means. It goes like this: whenever someone looks as if they are about to sit next to you, sit up, brighten visibly and give them a beaming smile of welcome. If you have the gall, say "Hello!" in as pleased a voice as you can muster, and pat the seat beside you. I guarantee that they will take fright and move several places up the carriage to sit next to the person who, probably like you, has their head buried in a book in the hope that they will seem inconspicuous. Alternatively, buy a mobile phone and spend the journey ringing people up (remember to activate the beeps on the keypad!) and say: "Hi, it's me. I'm on the train." No one will sit next to you, ever. Though you may find that a paper cup of Coca-Cola sails mysteriously through the air and lands in your lap at some point.

I once failed to finish my chocolate mousse when the woman next to me at dinner launched into a blow-by-blow description of the colonic irrigation session she had had that afternoon. Does this qualify in the "rudest thing" competition?

Martin, Cornwall

Yes. It's odd how a certain type of person seems to think that they're closer to royalty because they share some of their habits. Anyone else?

I never know with women these days. Do we hold doors open for them, give them our seats on public transport, walk on the outside of the pavement etc? Or is it insulting? A woman shouted at me for holding the door open for her the other day. I thought I was being polite.

Brian, Chelmsford

Yes, but it's a two-way thing these days. Everyone should always hold doors open for everyone else; it's a simple politeness thing. Women should refuse seats offered to them, unless they are pregnant (and remember, you can't always tell) or feeling old that day; but they should do so nicely. People who shout at other people for being polite usually have adjustment problems. Pity them; they're probably in pain after a session having their moustaches waxed.

Knotty problems with the world today? Write to The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, where you will be treated with the customary sympathy

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture