June 28, 2013 7:34 pm

In command of the QE2

Cliff Richard had taken the ‘home tour’ to new heights – it was very impressive

Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

Don’t you get tired of hosts who insist, particularly before one sits down for dinner, on a tour of their house? Is it acceptable to prescribe a tour of one’s own home?

No, never prescribe a tour of one’s home. It’s too keen to show off and a bit gauche. But if your guests specifically ask to see your house, you can decide to show them with nonchalance. Cliff Richard once invited a few of us who were staying in an adjacent villa in Barbados to go over to his garden for cocktails. He then explained that the QE2 would soon come round the headland and when it is steaming right in front of the house, the liner would shut off all her lights and bring them on and then shut them again – as a sign of salute! Sure enough, the QE2 came round and when it was against the horizon in front of us, all her lights, on a wave of Cliff’s command, blinked three times like a giant Morse code transmitter. It was very impressive. Cliff Richard had taken the “home tour” to new heights. How did he do it? He had made a prior arrangement with the captain of the boat and used a torch-light on his balcony as a cue. The even cleverer part of the trick is that we could almost hear the captain on the boat boasting to his passengers that when the lights of the ship go on and off, Cliff Richard in his villa would acknowledge them with flashes of light from his home.

. . .

I, too, love the feel of the book in my hands, the smell of the paper. There is no glare. Books do not tire my eyes. It may be of interest to you that reading from an electronic device at bedtime disturbs our melatonin and sleep is not as deep, or as healing – another reason for taking a book, not a Kindle, to bed.

Indeed, I have always found the illumination of the Kindle far too grey. And when I am using the bedside lamp, the Kindle takes on another intensity that makes reading doubly tiring. Worst of all, I would live in fear of the tablet running out of battery! Imagine if it goes flat at a critical juncture of a novel or a poem? It might be irrelevant for Finnegans Wake, but not, say, during any closing remarks by Hercule Poirot – or, say, immediately after “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”! Imagine the unbearable suspense and frustration! One more thing: I love all the pictures and information on the dust covers of books. Electronic devices create unnecessary privations.

. . .

Sir, when looking at interior magazine spreads, they most often do not have a TV included. In most households, TVs tend to have a large presence in sitting rooms, so I have always wondered what is the most sensible way to place a TV if you do not have an AV room.

AV room? Let’s not be super-bourgeois! My staunch view about the television set is that it should be placed where it is best viewed. There should be no hang-up on its appearance, especially nowadays, as the ubiquitous flat screens are far from ugly as a piece of furniture. On the contrary, if you can afford a Bang & Olufsen or a Loewe, then they would look better than most pieces of furniture! There is no earthly reason why any of us should hide the fact that we watch television, and therefore why hide the television set? You wouldn’t find the Queen trying to shove her set into a Chinoiserie cabinet. I love having mine in my sitting room, if only because I can then switch it on whenever someone gets boring.

. . .

As a Dutchman, I was quite puzzled about your quip that the Dutch need their minds unclogged. I fear that the Dutch do not buy painted tulips themselves but that there is strong demand from countries with even grimmer climes than the Netherlands.

The point is that you and your compatriots, presumably for sheer profit, grow tulips in glasshouses and dye them in unnatural colours throughout the year, with the result that the symbol of spring that had always been associated with the tulips is now irretrievably lost. It’s tampering with Nature, whose rhythms follow the seasons, like the appearance of the cherry blossoms or white truffles or hairy Shanghai crabs. Imagine if all of these things were no longer seasonal. That would be very boring indeed, like the perennial orchids that pervade Singapore, which live in a monotonous year of heat and humidity, made even more tedious by a population that doesn’t blow bubblegum or have long hair.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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