February 14, 2014 6:15 pm

Why showing off your new motor is a sign of pathetic insecurity

‘Testosterone should be demonstrated by cerebral dexterity or bodily muscles, not car ownership’

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

What do you make of those who like showing off their new cars in front of their homes?

In leafy suburbia, I always notice clean cars parked in a reversed position with the front facing the street, as if to make sure that one can get away easily by driving straight out. This habit irritates me because only the military or fire engines need to egress with maximum speed. Otherwise, it merely suggests a petty mentality of puerile prudence which is characteristic of a boringly safe and dull middle class.

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David Tang

If I had to get out of my house in a hurry, I’d much sooner jump into my car and screech out dangerously on to the road in reverse, if only to create a little excitement by acting out what Steve McQueen might have done.

As for showing off the latest models of an Audi or BMW, or worse still a Lamborghini, I find the whole business excruciatingly naff. Some will contend that it’s a male tendency to show off a bit of testosterone, but testosterone should be demonstrated by cerebral dexterity or bodily muscles, not car ownership. Parking a new expensive motor in front of one’s driveway is an open and pathetic declaration of insecurity.

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My wife and I have a four-year-old daughter. In your considered view, what is a good age to start piano lessons for her (neither myself nor my wife can play)? Some say now . . . others say she is too young and to wait until she is 6-8 years old. Your thoughts are appreciated.

I would wait a little, unless the child already exhibits some special tendency to make musical sounds from the piano. Otherwise you might be forcing her to do something she doesn’t like. Many kids hate learning musical instruments, unbeknown to pushy “tiger mothers” who impose graded exams on their offspring.

Yet little attention is paid to the important business of music making and its appreciation and wonder. The mechanical way in which every other child sits at a piano and trots out a Bach prelude or a Chopin nocturne is a tedious thing to sit through – and disconcerting to watch a small human puppet pampered by a smiling parent looking smugly on.

I didn’t have the chance to learn the piano until I was 15 – when I suddenly discovered its astonishing power and became obsessed. My parents were unhelpful and constantly told me not to practise because I was causing such a racket! But when they were out, I banged like hell and pretended I was Franz Liszt performing.

All I would say is that if I had the choice of reincarnation, I would not hesitate for a moment to come back as a concert pianist – playing like Sokolov.

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On China Tang’s “Private Dining Rooms” web page, I noticed a label for “Loos”. For a moment I hoped it would show a room inspired by the modernist architecture of Adolf Loos. But the room isn’t about Loos. Why publish pictures of toilets on the website?

First, your attempt at a verbal pun is rather strained. Second, you ought to know that in these particular loos of the restaurant, poetry readings are piped through. One moment it could be Rupert Brooke, another Dylan Thomas, with the sonorous Richard Burton reading Under Milk Wood.

My favourite is Shelley’s Ozymandias which as a sonnet has just the right length to hear from beginning to end during the interval of my visit. It’s so much more satisfactory than hearing background music. Indeed, the whole business of designing loos away from home is far from easy and, worst of all, invariably overlooked. It is a real art and challenge for serious designers. Being perfunctory is never enough. Yet these loos seem to be given the least amount of thought when they deserve the most. Apart from the decor and choice of hardware, there is always the key issue of maintenance, or more to the point, cleanliness. I am forever anxious about the prospect of general hygiene, which I concede is not easy to guarantee.

For example, the ones on trains in Britain are generally alarming. Ditto for their stations. But the ones at airports are more dependable because there are invariably conscientious staff maintaining them. In the air, Japan Airlines is the only airline I know that requires its crew to attend to the loos regularly.

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I would like to encourage readers to post comments and questions online rather than via email. That way we can have a debate of spontaneous and dynamic responses, an arena for opposing views.

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