MODERN MANNERS: SURVIVING THE MINEFIELD, OR HOW TO EAT YOUR Ps AND Qs

Dear Serena,

I have agreed to be interviewed by a former member of the royal family who has been given her own chat-show slot on cable TV. At first I was happy to oblige as the fee was excellent and I thought that no one would see it anyway, but now I am beginning to have doubts. How should I greet her? How should I address her? Is there an appropriate dress code? And surely there is going to be a problem with entrances: the customary manner, where the guest comes down a set of stairs to be greeted by the host, must surely fly in the face of all royal protocol?

Concerned monarchist, Maida Vale

This is a knottier problem than it may seem at first sight. The basic rule in terms of monarchy is that someone who has been stripped of her HRH and chucked into the gutter doesn't qualify for the usual tedious foot-kissing routines. Then again, this show will probably be aimed at syndication across the United States, and it's always lovely to have an opportunity to play the great British game of indulging in archaic practises nobody normally bothers with when they think an American might be in the vicinity. The sight of Texas oil matrons practising their curtseys and pronunciation of "ma'am" makes up for a great deal of indignity on your own part.

Then again, you don't want your interviewer giving herself airs, and you don't want British people thinking you don't know what's what. You are the important person in this interview, and you will have an opportunity to confuse the American audience mightily. Take your chance for entering a room after royalty and do it with relish. Wear traditional British party gear, such as miniskirt and trainers or Pringle sweater and Bermuda shorts. Whatever else you do, under no circumstances allow her to kiss you. When you make your entrance onto the set, stick your hand out a minimum two feet from your body, and keep her at that distance. Better still, wear gloves.

Our department has recently been reorganised, and we have a new boss. The problem is that he seems to be obsessed with giving people nicknames: not the usual catch-all "sweetheart" that means that he can't remember who you are, but full-on new names. Any multiple-syllable name gets shortened to its first syllable, and any single-syllable name will be lengthened. So Charles has become Charlie-boy, Hugh is Hughie-me-old-son and Eugene has become "Oi! Eu!". My own diminutive is so awful it makes me shudder. How do we put a stop to this habit?

Giselle, Havant

Calm down. He's only trying to get a rise out of you. Perhaps your office stands on its dignity a bit too much, and this is his way of tackling it? Either that, or he never really got over leaving prep school. The latter option is most likely if he tends to spout the offending epithets in a fake cockney accent. Apart from the hackneyed old "ask him to call you by your real name" tack, which will do the job but probably mean you spend a few weeks being regarded as the office spoilsport, you have three options: toughen up - sorry, darling, but you're going to need a thicker skin than that if you're going to survive life in the real world; ignore him when he calls you by anything other than your full name; or develop a series of equally irritating nicknames to use in return, such as "Poops", "Titch" or "Gummy". This is my favoured option: guerrilla warfare is so much more fun than treaty talks, isn't it?

Dear Serena

I have recently struck up a relationship with a woman who appears to have all the accoutrements of a potential wife: well-off, reasonably good-looking, unargumentative and very admiring of me. There is only one problem: she holds her knife like a pen. I am covered in embarrassment when we eat in public. What should I do?

Geoffrey, Fulham

Get some therapy, honey.

Send your problems to: c/o Weekend Review, The Independent, 1 Canada Sq, London E14 5DL.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate