Experimental feature

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00
Experimental feature

I seldom buy your weekend edition as I find it almost totally insignificant, banal and empty of interesting content. Your edition on July 16 simply confirms my opinion. The disgusting (to say the least) piece by D Tang — who from his photo would like to present himself as an upper-class, “chic”, classy person — is more worthy of young recruits in an army barracks or (male) college students. He probably makes up the questions; and to think that the FT pays him to write such idiotic and vulgar pieces! Is the FT not capable of finding better journalists? Signed: not a frequent FT reader, France.

Here is incontrovertible proof of three things: one, that I don’t write my own questions; two, that there is at least one person in France who is a complete idiot; and three, that the FT will survive and thrive without his blatant idiocy.

Is it polite to mention a person’s occupation when introducing house guests to each other? Surely it helps to say something about people who don’t know each other, but could it be rude?

It is infra dig to mention what people do as you make introductions. The crassest thing is to vicariously flaunt someone else’s wealth by saying that Mr X owns this or Mr Y owns that. Less crass, but equally vulgar, is the bourgeois practice of whispering to others the supposed importance or relevance of other guests before they arrive, or through private conversations beforehand. There are even hosts who are eager to publish their guest lists and send them out as a round robin of CVs to everyone coming. In a social context, this is unrefined behaviour for private lunches or dinners. It also spoils the expectation of the gathering. It is a great feeling when one finds oneself sitting next to someone whom one has always wanted to meet or wouldn’t mind meeting or finding, unexpectedly, a neighbour that is fascinating to talk to.

In any event, guests should make use of their own intelligence and resourcefulness to engage with strangers who are adjacent guests. It is always boring to ask at the beginning of a conversation: “So what do you do?” Sometimes, I start by asking: “So, what do you NOT do?”, which often elicits a smile and an interesting response that is, in my estimation, a good beginning to further exchanges. Often, it is much better to go out of one’s way not to ask what a guest does so that the conversation can take off in all sorts of unexpected directions. I learnt this approach on screen from the great and mysterious Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris. He insisted that his intimate relationship with a stranger, played by the gorgeous Maria Schneider, should not be spoilt by the revelation of any of their personal details. He did not even want to know her name. Yet look at the explosive passion that ensued from such an anonymous relationship. I have always harboured a fantasy that it might occur to me. Alas, at my advancing age, I am more or less resigned to the fact that there is virtually no prospect of such a fantastic occurrence — unless one was Albert Albinus in Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark.

When introduced to a lady should a gentleman remove his sunglasses? In what circumstances is it permissible to wear sunglasses when indoors?

Lord Lambton never removed his sunglasses and, as he was someone with a supreme sense of style, I’d follow him. Mind you, there was a medical reason why he always wore dark glasses, yet he never explained it to anyone. It would be even better if others were to think the reason you don’t take off your shades is due to a medical reason and not bad manners. I notice that the Queen never takes off her shades — and I am sure she wouldn’t expect one to either.

Regarding wearing shades indoors, I should imagine George Hamilton might well be a practitioner of this habit, as he seems to be permanently tanned, and so I surmise that all the lights in his own home are ultraviolet and left on permanently.

When preparing a scone, should one first apply the jam or the Cornish cream?

Jam first of course, silly. It’s much more stable than cream and doesn’t spread under the cream.

Please post comments and questions at the end of this article, or email david.tang@ft.com

Letter in response to this article

Agony uncle questions are genuine, as I can confirm / From Simon Bracken

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.