Slobs and snobs
Simon Heffer’s article (‘The slob culture’, 15 January) identifies a long-standing decline. I live in Bangkok, Thailand, and on Christmas Eve I was in the lobby of a five-star hotel where milling around were representatives from the Caucasian world dressed in subfuscous clothing, ancient jeans and T-shirts — the uniform of the Western world. Presumably most of these people were preparing to dine in five-star restaurants in the city or in the hotel, but they had not bothered or had not wished to change out of their poolside garb for the evening.
Simon Heffer caused me to reflect that, during 35 years attending the Royal Opera House, I have observed that the standard of a man’s behaviour is in inverse proportion to the smartness of his dress. The demeanour of corporate patrons (who always dress up) is sometimes disgraceful. People who do not dress up are always there for the right reasons and their conduct is invariably impeccable.
A visit to a grand opera is not an ‘event’. It is simply going to a place of public entertainment, and should not be regarded in the same way as a royal garden party.
I am a little surprised at Simon Heffer citing Evelyn Waugh. Mr Waugh has not hitherto been seen as a reliable guide either to matters sartorial (his lurid and inappropriate tweeds were heavily mocked by his ‘friends’) or to good manners and gentlemanly conduct (having intrigued his way into the Household Brigade he was found seriously neglectful of the welfare of his unfortunate men).
R.C. Sherriff published an autobiography, No Leading Lady, in 1968, but perhaps it is not so surprising that Robert Gore-Langton omitted to acknowledge any debt to that book in his piece on the author of Journey’s End (‘Truth from the trenches’, 15 January). By Sherriff’s own account, at least two of Gore-Langton’s facts are wrong. Journey’s End was never submitted to the Kingston Rowing Club’s amateur dramatic group, the Adventurers. Sherriff had finished writing for the Club after five productions. Not just an ‘eagle-eyed critic’ gushed about the first Sunday-night production of the play. Hannen Swaffer in the Daily Express, W.A. Darlington in the Daily Telegraph, and the drama critics of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror all gave it glowing reviews. Especially influential was James Agate, who in his weekly radio talk said, ‘I have never been so deeply moved, so enthralled, so exalted.’ Even then, the commercial producers shunned Journey’s End. It took an untried chancer, Maurice Brown, to risk all and produce it at the Savoy Theatre. The rest was, truly, theatrical history.
How good at last to see an article paying tribute to R.C. Sherriff. At Charterhouse, in 1968, I introduced Journey’s End as part of my 20th-century drama course. It always went down extremely well, even when just read in the hash-room.
A revival of his fine play The Long Sunset is long overdue. Written in 1955, clearly nostalgic about the evening of empire, it would, today, provide an epitaph on a Britain (specifically on an all-but-vanished England) which, with all its faults, once seemed a source of justifiable pride to those born and bred there.
Wester Ross, Scotland
Ease out the mullahs
Douglas Davis is right in his assessment (‘Deadly threat of a nuclear Iran’, 15 January) that if the mullahs get a nuclear weapon they will be completely unstoppable. It is also an accepted fact that they are behind the terrorism in both Iraq and Palestine/Israel. Unfortunately, the UK and EU idea of ‘critical dialogue’ has proved itself to be nothing more than a farce, which the ruling clerics in Iran have been more than happy to exploit in their own favour with a cynical chuckle.
Given these undeniable realities, the only practical and acceptable way to stop all this is to help the Iranian people to get rid of the mullahs — a feat that will not require British or American soldiers, something which they do not want in any case. Through vocal support for the recently announced national appeal by all major organisations across the political spectrum in support of a referendum for the drafting of a new national constitution, the aspirations of the Iranian people for peaceful change can receive the bolster which they desperately need at this time.
Dr Mehrdad Khonsari
Leader, The Constitutionalist Movement of Iran, London SW15
I heartily agree with Mary Kenny (‘My grubby secret’, 1 January) that after a certain age when one ceases to perspire a daily bath or shower is not essential.
What Paul Waters complains about in his letter (8 January) is a lack of attention to dry-cleaning, not washing.
Wellington, New Zealand
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