Games people play

Pandora Melly tries to create a good impression
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Harold Brooks-Baker, 63, Publishing director, `Burke's Peerage'

My favourite pastime is people-watching. What I try to do is figure out what different bloods people have, and what social background they come from. You used to be able to tell immediately a German from a Frenchman, or a Hungarian from a Finn, but it's much more difficult now because of the way the world is shrinking socially. Also because people wear the same boring clothes. There's very little originality in trainers and blue- jeans, whatever label you put on them.

What I like to do, after making various assumptions, is to try to find out who people actually are. I get only one chance in a thousand to do this, and it is much more difficult with women than men, because women are more chameleon-like. They imitate others, and have more things done to themselves, which is rather confusing. Also, if a woman marries above the social and economic position she was born into, you don't often spot it, whereas if a man marries up, it is immediately obvious in the whole manner, the entire presentation.

I can usually guess what type of jobs people have. Some professions are very easy. For instance, barristers wear sombre clothes and a faraway expression; their hair is clipped shorter than is the trend today, and ball-point pens and things stick out of their pockets. Solicitors are the same, but a bit tattier.

When I was young and worked in the White House, I used this knowledge to determine whether the person coming unto my humble entrance should be let into the offices of the important and famous politicans I was working for. I like to know who I'm dealing with, and nothing upsets me more than reading an obituary and not knowing who the grandparents were. To understand people, you need the proper frame.

"Manwatching" by Desmond Morris is available at many good second-hand bookshops. Or you may look them up in `Who's Who 1997' (A&C Black, pounds 98)

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