September 16, 2011 9:59 pm

Panamas and paranoia

Should I desist from saying ‘so sorry to fag you’ whenever I ask my friends to do me a favour? They simply do not get the drift of what I mean

Sir David Tang, founder of ICorrect, globetrotter and the man about too many towns to mention, divides his time between homes in Hong Kong, mainland China and London. Here he invites readers’ queries for his advice on property, interiors, etiquette at home (wherever you live), parties and anything else that may be bothering you.

Sir, I note that you sometimes sport a fine panama. I have an extensive collection of panama’s. How should I best display them to friends and guests at my ancestral home in Clapham?

You are wrong, both in apostrophe and hat. Plurality requires no apostrophe, and the hat in last week’s photograph is not a panama. Everybody should know that a panama hat, which comes from Ecuador, is made from the woven fibres of the palm jipijapa. It always comes in its natural flax which has that translucent quality that makes it special. You can tell that mine is not a panama because it was bright yellow and made of felt. I can just see you as “the man on the Clapham omnibus”, championed by the law of tort as someone reasonably educated and intelligent, but a non-specialist, boring visitors with your “collection” of headgear, which is probably as questionable as your claim of an ancestral home at Clapham, which only in modern times became a nondescript commuter suburb.

A friend pointed out to me that I have friends from all walks of life, but I don’t have any older Asian friends. Could it be true that Asians simply don’t befriend their elders or I am really not the social butterfly I appear to be? What are your insights on this?

I am Asian and have a satellite of older friends. Indeed, most of my best friends are much older than me. This month I will be giving a large dinner for a nonagenarian friend of mine, and I have noticed that most of our mutual friends are septuagenarians upwards. If, as a social butterfly, you don’t have any older friends of any nationality, you must have come from an inferior cocoon.

Is wearing cufflinks on a single cuff shirt a complete sartorial no-no?

Not at all. Double cuffs are only de rigueur on dress shirts. I have many shirts with single cuffs made by Charvet, the best shirt-maker in the world. In their bespoke room above their shop overlooking the Place Vendôme in Paris, Mademoiselle Anne-Marie Colban, daughter of the owner, is able to offer 104 shades of white. If she can make shirts with single cuffs for cufflinks, I’d be foolish to worry about any sartorial faux pas.

I wonder if you can advise me on an expression that I have been using for many years – whenever I ask my friends to do me a favour, I always precede or conclude my request with “so sorry to fag you”. In these petty correctional times, it does cause some consternation, added to which my “newer group of friends” simply do not get the drift of what I mean – should I desist from using it?

To “fag” has all the politically incorrect connotations of a snooty public school for boys. Using the phrase is also excruciatingly “Sloaney”, not to mention the implication that you are in superior authority. Most contrived of all would be if you did not go to a public school where fagging might have been rampant. In any event, it is very tiresome for people to offer a redundant preface to what they want to say. I hate it when they start off saying something like: “I have some bad news”, which instantly makes me sick with retching images.

I am a bearded gay guy, with Iranian origins and with atheist parents. Sometimes when I go shopping people indicate, “Oh be careful, there is pig in there”. Should I get angry and shout, “Hey, you know I do many other things your religion wouldn’t allow me to,” or should I just smile and pass to the other stand?

I think you are paranoid. Shaving your beard off might make you feel more confident. And stop worrying about the religious inclination of your parents, about which nobody would know nor care. Still less that you are homosexual, as Iran is slightly different from England, where it is now almost more fashionable to be gay, certainly in marriage. It is also a country in which you could sue somebody for making a racial remark, although a simple reference to pork might be borderline. I would just smile and pass on. As they say, “The dog barks, the caravan moves on.”

I noticed in the FT last weekend your cigar is blurred out. Any reason why?

Yes – I finished smoking it. And when I will have lit up a new one, it will reappear. That’s how smoking works.

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