The new etiquette

John Walsh's guide to modern manners in the 21st century
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Once, we all knew our place, we minded our Ps and Qs, we were taught the right way to drink soup and address an archbishop. If we had doubts, we could leaf through Debrett's Etiquette and Modern Manners. Simple. But the modern world is a confusing place, full of odd new identities, codes and behaviour patterns. Looking at the news in the last few weeks, we think you'll agree a new rule book is needed. You need a friend to guide you through the social minefield. You need, in short, The Independent Guide to Modern Etiquette...

Once, we all knew our place, we minded our Ps and Qs, we were taught the right way to drink soup and address an archbishop. If we had doubts, we could leaf through Debrett's Etiquette and Modern Manners. Simple. But the modern world is a confusing place, full of odd new identities, codes and behaviour patterns. Looking at the news in the last few weeks, we think you'll agree a new rule book is needed. You need a friend to guide you through the social minefield. You need, in short, The Independent Guide to Modern Etiquette...

Meeting the Queen

A difficult behavioural arena. One must strive to interest the Royal Personage without ever straying from the path of deference. You may discuss with Her Majesty the best way to rid one's floribunda of aphids. You may reply to her general enquiries about your job, your journey or your interest in the Commonwealth. But that's it. It is not for you to initiate conversations, nor ask questions of your monarch.

Do not:

a) bring a bottle of Rosemount chardonnay, on the grounds that Her Majesty may run out of booze by midnight.

b) invite Her Majesty to clarify her position on the viability of the Euro.

c) say: "See the match last night? I thought Zidane played a blinder..."

d) ask: "So tell me, has young Wills had a shag yet?"

At One's Birthday Party

If you are fantastically posh, nobly born, royally connected and have a fantastically pushy mother, it's hard to know how to behave in the public eye. There are many traps for the unwary. Like Lord Frederick Windsor, you're a fun-loving Young Person, but also a role model for British Youth and therefore expected to set a good example, as the finest flower of British manhood. Therefore:

a) Be sure to dress up for the party in dandy velvets, yellow garters and a periwig before walking through the streets of Notting Hill, in order to allow the common people to jeer at one, in an eerie reconstruction of (just) pre-Revolutionary Paris.

b) You may snog either of the daughters of the Marquis of Tewksbury, the younger sister of Prince Henry Gelitzin, the mother of Prince Torquil Lestrang and any of the chambermaids, BUT NOT Miss Hortensia Devane-Belvoir-Thynne, who is being kept nice for Prince Harry.

c) It is bad form to slide down the drawing- room wall and collapse in a drunken stupor and vomit all over the carpet BEFORE one's host and BEFORE 10 pm.

d) When being photographed by the tabloids, it is correct to wave one's hands ineffectually at the lens, to confirm the impression of being a complete wally.

Doing the Season

The Season represents the pinnacle of the social calendar, the highpoint of formal amusements among the titled and the rich, the apex of the comme il faut. Certain things are just not done. Namely:

a) Under no circumstances should you train your binoculars on the Wimbledon tennis streaker, shouting "Oooh, I say!"

b) If you are a famous beauty, say Liz Hurley, DO NOT sit in the same camera shot as any sexy young Russian tennis stars, especially not when dressed like a saleswomen from Harrods luxury goods department.

c) You can get into the Royal Enclosure at Ascot wearing a hat in the shape of the Millennium Dome and covered in papier maché frogs, but not into the Steward's Enclosure at Henley, as Mrs Elizabeth Abastado discovered, wearing a skirt an inch above your knee (it looks undignified).

d) The chicken drumstick at the picnic in the interval at Glyndebourne should, once consumed, be hurled over the RIGHT shoulder into an adjacent field, while employing the LEFT hand to squeeze the breast of the supermodel girlfriend.

e) Never be caught actually watching any of the races at the Henley Regatta.

f) During the "Fantasia on British Sea Shanties" at the Last Night of the Proms, it is not done to begin the satirical knee-bending routine BEFORE the Queen Mother.

At the Wedding

The modern post-nuclear family will tend to resemble Mick Jagger's extended family, a throng the size of a small town. You'll have the bride's father, his first wife and their children, his celebrity mistress and his child via her, then the second wife (not on speakers at the moment, I'm afraid) and their umpteen sprogs, plus the one-off bunk-up in Malta and resulting twins, plus the forgotten girlfriend and the kid she claims is his (a likely story), not to mention the groom's mother...

a) At the wedding ceremony, when the vicar asks if anyone knows of any just impediment, it is not done to bring up the marriage licence the groom bought in Zanzibar when he married Ms Erica Throbb, the well-known groupie, in 1974.

b) The father and mother of the bride will together smile and nod at all the guests for NOT LESS than 25 minutes, before resuming normal hostilities. They will inform OK! magazine that they have never been happier, or better friends.

c) When the bride flings her bouquet, the bridesmaids etc shall compete with each other NOT to catch it, for fear of finding themselves married to Mr Tim Jeffries.

d) On returning from the honeymoon, the newly-weds will tell Lynda Lee-Potter that they are taking stock of their personal goals - at different ends of the country.

How to Behave Abroad

Always remember, when in a foreign country, that you are an ambassador of your country, and never say or do anything that will make the locals change their view of English people. Though different European cities fall in and out of favour, the modern Grand Tour ideally takes in:

Amsterdam: Visit delightful Needle Park, where one can purchase a souvenir T-shirt emblazoned with the words "KILL KLUIVERT".

Brussels: Why not have your enormous beer-gut tattooed with sexist slogans before catching the plane? It's a way to make sure your hosts never forget you.

Berlin: Try the Millerhof Bar in Alexanderplatz. You can always find a few Mönchengladbach fans in there, looking for a punch-up.

Marseilles: Always carry a metal chair when strolling in the street. You never know when you might find a plate-glass window.

Rome: Visit the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain, the Appian Way, the Colosseum, and the popular Polizia station where you will find many of your friends being strip-searched and dried out.

On the Train

Travelling by locomotive used to be so simple. One caught the train, sat in one's seat, visited the buffet car, showed one's ticket to the inspector, and got out at the other end. Today it's more complex. It's just been revealed that over half the population - 30 million - own mobile phones, and rail passengers are now divided into those with mobiles (X people) and those without (Y people). Each group must follow strictly formulaic behaviour patterns:

a) If you're person X, it is correct form to wait until the train is pulling into Reading before flourishing one's mobile phone. One must begin by saying, slightly too loudly, the words, "Yeah, hi darling, we're just pulling into Reading. Yeah, I'm on the train. Oh, you know, quiet. The boss in a filthy temper all afternoon. What? Hang on, you're breaking up..."

b) Person Y MUST WAIT for the phrase "you're breaking up" before responding with appropriate body language, ie. noisily rustling the pages of The Daily Telegraph, saying "For God's sake!", standing up and stomping off down the aisle.

c) Person X, on approaching Didcot Parkway, should make an entirely gratuitous phone call to his secretary, employing, at some point, the words: "...second drawer of my desk. At least I think it's there. Or else ask Clive. Or Colin. I think Colin's probably got a copy..." This is the signal for:

d) Person Y to exchange glances with his neighbour, roll his eyes satirically upwards and say loudly, "SOME PEOPLE REALLY SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO LIVE, SHOULD THEY?"

On a First Date

It is no longer correct for the gentleman to take the lady for a drink in a pub, followed by a fish supper and a bus home. The ideal first romantic encounter in the 21st century is a more ambitious matter, thanks to date-rape drugs. All being well, it should proceed in three easy stages:

a) a couple of sharpeners at Binkie's in Frith Street, two Tequila Bombers at Navels in Beak St, a Spooky Pukey at Sinbad's on Tottenham Court Road, a brace of Cointreau Cojones at 54 Jermyn St, a spring roll at Ming's, a plate of sashimi at Yukio's, a creme caramel at Sugar Reef, a slug of Rohypnol in the young lady's skinny latte at Milan Stan's, then a couple of Bourbon Buttocks at China White's, four bottles of Malibu Moloko at the Met and a herb tea at Herb's at 5 am.

b) lose consciousness.

c) wake up wholly unable to recall what happened the previous night but with a faint, unnameable dread that sex was involved.

Conversation, is no longer de rigueur on a first date. Instead, a variety of short phrases may be employed: "Oh gosh, there's Jade", "Like, totally", "That is so a strong look", "Bless..."

It is OK to remove all one's clothes when having sex on a first date. It is NOT done, however, to remove one's Cutler & Gross sunglasses until after the second or third date.

So there you go. A few simple rules, but they make all the difference. No longer will you feel at a loss when confronted by a boun-cer at a Royal Enclosure. No longer need you fret about where to go on the European Grand Tour. Manners cost nothing but their absence could cost you your foothold in society. Remember the words of Rose Maybud, the Village Maiden in Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore: "The man who bites his bread or eats peas with a knife, I look upon as a lost creature." Ditto the man who tries to talk to the Queen about something important...

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