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Dear Mary

How can I be a member of the Chipping Norton set?

28 September 2013

9:00 AM

28 September 2013

9:00 AM

Q. I am working on becoming a member of the Chipping Norton set. Should I be pronouncing the excellent open-air swimming pool as lee-doh or lie-doh?
— P.W., by email

A. You might as well pronounce it correctly — lee-doh — but which Chipping Norton set are you aiming to join? The set made up of Cameron, Brooks and Clarkson (who fund-raises for the Lido) exists mainly in the mind of journalists. Then there is the real Chipping Norton set whose members are mainly earthy, arty and left-wing. They pronounce it lee-doh as well. The Lido is charming but you will need to do more than pronounce its name correctly to gain social access to these busy people.


Q. A friend who visits London infrequently invited me to join him for lunch at a West End restaurant where he had booked a table. As I, a 50-year-old woman, sat down, he handed me a packet of photographs taken at his 70th birthday, which I attended. As I looked at one of myself he sighed and said, ‘It’s hard to believe that was only two years ago because I am afraid that you and I have both deteriorated quite markedly since then.’ I felt too deflated to respond, but in retrospect, I wanted to know more, because the assumption that I would agree I had deteriorated worries me. It certainly wasn’t the restaurant lighting — we were sitting in the window in natural daylight.
— D.W., London SW3

A. The English language is well-furnished with quips and clichés to fit every occasion. If ever there was a moment when ‘speak for yourself’ would have fitted the bill, it was this one. At least this would have prompted an explanation for the caustic comment. You would undoubtedly have found that this 72-year old was absent-mindedly rehearsing a conversation for later in the day with someone else who actually has deteriorated. And, if not, it would have been good to know what deterioration he has observed so you could visit a doctor for some tests.

Q. I recently attended a private field-sports competition held on an estate in Wales. All of us competitors were required to also do a short stint at judging. When it was my turn, the elderly gentleman I was taking over from handed me the whistle that he had just been using. What could I have done to avoid having to place it in my mouth? Bear in mind there was a considerable crowd of onlookers.
—Name and address withheld

A. When, in childhood, someone asks for a bite of your apple and then hands it back, you can say, ‘Finish it. I’ve had enough.’ But on this sports field you had no option other than to act daft and pretend you did not know what was required. The focus would soon have moved on from you to the next competitor.


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