I have been slightly bored by well-meaning correspondents commending this or that acoustic consultant. My general belief is that consultants camouflage a great deal of technical jargon as expertise and, particularly for any opera house or concert hall, the finest acoustics often come naturally or magically and not necessarily by design and seldom from consulting. This whole business is also talked about out of context: best acoustics for when and for whom? When the space is empty or half-filled or full to the brim? Or are we concerned with the audio reception of the orchestra or the conductor or the soloist on stage? Or the audience? And where is best for the audience? In the stalls or circle or in the boxes or the balcony? Clearly, if there is true science on acoustics, it only makes sense to talk about it with specific reference points, all of which will necessarily throw up different conclusions.
Another breeding ground for acoustic nonsense is when rich people demand the best sounds for their super houses or yachts, inviting greasy salesmen to gyrate with ugly equipment and dispense lectures on sense-surrounds and the advantages of umpteen speakers, woofers and what-have-you. But they always only demonstrate with blasting volumes and never mention that the human ear finds it difficult to distinguish a narrow band of frequencies. I would also want a sound system that picks out the quietest notes and silences. I want to hear the incredible tension, say, of the opening of Tristan, which consists of the quietest notes and silences. You could have the most technically brilliant equipment, yet if the room is not soundproof, it would be all for naught.
On the business of tea, a reader has suggested a “murky culinary history of the British adding milk and sugar” to it. I am not familiar with the origin of this practice. All I know is that we Chinese never add milk to our tea because dairy is not part of our culinary history. That is why a lot of Chinese like me don’t like cheese. The only thing I would mention is the stupidity of putting the milk in the cup first before pouring in the tea. The practical problem is then you could miss the strength of the cuppa because the tea might not be strong enough. Yet this seems to be the prevailing practice, especially with snobs who believe they must be doing the right thing because the Queen puts in her milk first. What these idiots don’t understand is that the strength of tea for the Queen would always be perfect in her preferred intensity, having been guaranteed by her precise staff, so she would always know how much milk to put in.
What would your view and advice be on men presenting lingerie as a gift to wives, lovers or girlfriends? Having been the recipient of such gifts in the latter categories, I have mixed feelings, having been charmed and revolted.
My advice for men is to stay clear of trying to buy lingerie for women. We wouldn’t understand the points of comfort, say, given our different human contours. More to the point, why fuss over a garment which is, presumably, hoped to come off fairly fast? In reverse, when I first opened my shop Shanghai Tang I sold a couple of silk boxer underpants to the gloriously beautiful Cindy Crawford for her boyfriend. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted and never asked for any advice, contrary to what I would do if I entered a lingerie shop.
What is your opinion on having meals dished up on a roofing slate or piece of flat wood or glass? What is wrong with a round plate? I do not like to embarrass my guests by asking the waiter to return the food and serve it on a plate.
The solution is surely to avoid the pretentious places which use such fancy equipment. Worse than the use of this contrived crockery is the all too predictable “presentation” of the food itself.
I noticed that one of the winning dishes created by the newly crowned MasterChef of Britain had a lot of froth over it. I wouldn’t want to eat it since it looked as if someone might have spat on it.
Blessed be the day when we can go into a restaurant and order simple food, simply cooked and served and not having to wait for oleaginous waiters with culinary mini-ivory towers perched in the centre of ridiculous receptacles. But never make a fuss by returning dishes which suggests showing off. More stylish to keep silent or make the joke among your own guests. As George Valentine, who wrote for Tommy Cooper, once said, “Eat now, pay waiter”.