Mary Killen

Your problems solved | 29 November 2003

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. Recently I have developed an enigmatic passion for a rather grand gentleman. Unfortunately it is not entirely reciprocated and I wondered if I could glean some advice as to how to go forward with this. I fear the main problem is that he is rather disturbed by my lack of good furniture and, while I don’t have the funds to go out and buy such, I would not be entirely against the idea. I am in my middle years and have to admit to being clearly rusty at seduction. An Edwardian sideboard, perhaps?

Name withheld, London SW1

A. You miss the point. If you are the kind of person who has to ‘buy her own furniture’ in the first place, then there is little point in trying to appeal to his snobbish side. A far more likely route to success would be to present yourself as good housekeeper material — he sounds about the right age to be looking out for this sort of partner rather than a romantic one. Coax him into your lair, generate an agreeable atmosphere and fill him with comforting foodstuffs next to a crackling fire. Then ask if you can host a charity luncheon on his own premises. Once you get your foot in the door he may like what he sees, and romantic congress can be achieved through the back door, so to speak.

Q. I have, for as long as I can remember, as did my grandfather and father before me, worn a gold-wire stock pin in my tie. In these increasingly egalitarian and ‘non-elitist’ days, it appears to elicit either quizzical mirth or tiresome unfunny quips, such as ‘Why have you got a safety pin in your tie — punk rock went out years ago?’ and ‘Why do you wear a nappy pin?’ Political correctness has seen me and my ilk consign my Brigade of Guards and Old Etonian and Vikings ties to the back of my tie rack. The stock pin is the last outward sign of one’s own type and tribe. Have you any suggestions as to a suitably cutting reply to the ignorant with regards to the above?

C.C.S., Norfolk

A. Of course you must continue to wear it. Unnerve the mockers by smiling kindly and saying, ‘Don’t you worry about correct dress. You’ve got enough on your plate as it is and no one holds that sort of thing against anyone else these days.’ Meanwhile, to those readers who have been inquiring about the acceptability of tie clips — tie clips have been considered naff but are becoming acceptable, provided they are suitably discreet and made of a precious metal. The advantage the clip has over the pin is that it does not leave a series of holes in your silk ties.

Q. What starters are fashionable at this time of year?

M.W., Wiltshire

A. Guests at a luncheon at Waddesdon Manor last week enjoyed a warm salad of pheasant breast and chestnuts, all lubricated nicely with a pomegranate dressing.