Q. Recently, during a stay in a luxurious mountain hotel in Italy, and having hurt my knee skiing, I was reading The Spectator in the library. I was alone in peace, thinking how wonderful the world is, when a man came in with his mobile, stretched out on a nearby sofa, and proceeded to engage in a long, loud phone call in German. I left the library after 20 minutes of mounting rage, for the peace of my bedroom. What should I have done?
— S.F., a quiet-mannered Englishwoman abroad
A. There are two ways you might have countered this breach of civility. One, by using your own mobile to record a snatch of the diatribe, then playing it back within his earshot. This would have unnerved and swiftly silenced the offender. Two: by approaching the offender wearing a concerned but kind expression as you whispered: ‘Be careful. You can be fined for using your mobile in this library.’ ‘Fined? By whom?’ they would retort. ‘By your own conscience…’ could come your gnomic reply.
Q. My sons are at a leading boys-only public school. The problem I have is with the staff, who — from the headmaster downwards — all leave their suit jackets flapping when making speeches or teaching, no doubt to appear ‘open’ and approachable. Instead the effect is worryingly casual. How do I tell them the correct dress? Could you do the honours so I can leave your answer lying around at strategic points within the school? My understanding on the subject was drawn from a glance at my late father who fastened the top two buttons, sometimes just the middle but never the lowest.
— S.B., Bath
A. Regarding buttons, the impeccably presented Sladmore Gallery director Gerry Farrell decrees that ‘top button only is the gentleman’s way’. Incidentally no school will do itself a disservice by imposing a draconian dress code. Standards are soaring at the once-chaotic Holland Park school, which many claim is a direct result of students knowing exactly what is expected of them in the way of appearance. This confidence follows through into the rest of the school day and ‘empowers’ their learning curves.
Q. A dear, unvain friend has developed an unsightly colourless mole right at the top of her nose. We meet for lunch once a month at Peter Jones. Last time I couldn’t take my eyes off it. How can I tactfully tell her she must get it removed?
— P.B., London SW1
A. Next time you meet tell her that you’ve just come from an appointment in Harley Street. You’ve had an unsightly mole removed from your shoulder and the dermatologist wanted to check the healing was all in order. Pass on the name and address as you say: ‘It’s exactly like the one you have on your forehead.’