A stable of Deux-Chevaux

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

Apropos Deux-Chevaux – we bought one year ago, but our children commandeered it, and we had to buy another for ourselves. The children’s Deux-CV was taken to all manner of places, from the Arctic to the deep Sahara. Coming out of the desert on one occasion in the early 1990s we elected to overnight at Fez – essentially to see how the Palais Jamaï had changed over the years. We arrived somewhat dust-laden, and probably noisily, and parked outside the new front door – the doorman was clearly upset, but we had kit to unload. Looking still rather worried, the doorman enquired of my wife – he hoping for a degree of salvation – had we other cars?

We should always behave in an aloof manner when dealing with pompous staff. Any car jockey who looks down on an old banger should always be put in his place. Therefore, you should have told the doorman that you had an entire stable of Deux-Chevaux, with every member of your family plus every member of your staff having one in different colours. You should then have asked him to arrange for your children’s Deux-CV to be washed after its desert crossing – and not forgetting to polish the chrome.

As for the Palais Jamaï, I hope you found it as wondrous as when I first saw it some 25 years ago. I didn’t travel to Fez in a Deux-CV, but by train from Tangiers, where I had stayed at the Grand Hôtel Villa de France in the same room in which Matisse painted most of his Moroccan paintings, even if the room did not seem to have been renovated over the years and was rather collapsed. It reminded me of L’Hôtel in Paris, once Hôtel d’Alsace, where Oscar Wilde died after uttering his immortal words, on looking at the peeling wallpaper: “One of us will have to go!”.

I also remember travelling to Fez and arriving at the Tangiers station five minutes before the departure of the train when I saw it pulling out of the platform. I went up to the guard and asked why the train seemed to have left earlier than the advertised time. He replied nonchalantly, “The train is full already. No point to wait.” That’s Moroccan logic for you.

But Fez, when I eventually got there, was magical, principally because of the location of the Palais Jamaï which is perched on top of a hill that overlooks the city. I would always remember entering my suite that was totally dark because of the shutters, and how when they were opened, I was stunned by the view of the souk below me, bathed in a golden blanket from a fading sunset. The minarets of the mosques glittered in the haze of the impending dusk, and prayers echoed in the distance. A faint perfume pervaded the atmosphere. It was the stuff of African romance as we might have read it from Karen Blixen. I would never forget the aesthetic satisfaction I had at the Palais Jamaï. I also loved the La Mamounia at Marrakech where Winston Churchill famously stayed. When I went there, also 25 years ago after my visit to Fez, I took the Churchill Suite, looking out across the desert in the heat to the snowcapped Atlas Mountains. They were of course the stone remains of the Titan Atlas after he looked at the severed head of Medusa used as a weapon by Perseus. I have always wondered how Churchill would have fared if he had to fight that nasty piece of snake-head.

In your response to the second query in your FT column today you say “A good friend OF MINE.” “Of mine” is redundant – so why say it? Seventy years ago people said “consensus of opinion” without batting an eyelash, even though “of opinion” was, and still is, redundant. Ditto “a friend OF MINE” today.

I am afraid you are wrong, and worse still wrong as a pedant. Just remember “a friend of mine” is not a tautology. Nor “a consensus of opinions [sic]”. Just think of “a friend of ours”, “a friend of yours”, “a friend of his”, “a friend of hers” or “a friend of theirs”. And how about “a consensus of timing”? Or “a consensus of facts”? So please calm down before you get more things wrong.

Great piece on hi-fi systems and their limitations. Here’s a tip for you: to get your child to bring your slippers, simply get a plug-in baby alarm and reverse it so instead of you being able to hear the child you can bark instructions at it without the inconvenience of it being able to answer you back. They love it!

I think you might be too clever by half. The problem with one of those baby alerts is that they are always “on”. So on your suggestion, my child will be able to hear everything I say. Can you imagine a child having to listen to his father speaking all the time in his own room? Far from loving it, the child will go completely crazy and, within minutes, is bound to disconnect the speaker, thereby rendering your tip totally useless.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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