Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of iCorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters
I wonder what you think about stemless wine glasses. When Riedel came out with a stemless goblet, I bought some and have seldom used stems since. Yes, it’s lovely to see tall glassware on the table. But then there are the shrieks as a knocked-over glass of red goes flying, everyone jumping up to save their outfits – invariably white – plus the conversation-killing mop-up, the anguish of the knocker-over, etc.
The Riedel stemless wine goblet is foul to look at and fouler to drink wine from. Calling it a “goblet” is an insult to me as a good Catholic altar-boy who is used to gleaming silver grails at Mass. If you are so antsy about wine glasses having stems, you should get some old ones without stems – especially those with a square crystal base. The idea that you should worry endlessly about glasses of red wine being knocked over is typically one of those irritating middle-class anxieties best consigned to oblivion. If a glass of red wine is knocked over, then it’s knocked over. We will just have to clean it up. Blotches on tablecloths and carpets are the marks of stylish nonchalance and confidence.
Can you tell me the best way to store neck ties?
Not rolled up à la small bundles of hay and stuffed tightly into a drawer – if only because you then can’t see the tie properly, and when one is extracted the whole lot collapses, with the inevitable bother of having to roll them like sushi back into order. Hang them, for God’s sake!
Some comments you wrote a while back on some of your preferred ritualistic grace notes in taking a bath – the radio, the cigar, the whisky – prompted us to redecorate our bathroom and for me to adopt similar rituals of my own. What else is there that you have discovered that one might consider adopting into one’s own routine?
The best routine is to use as much as possible all the best things we have for ourselves. I have noticed that those who are in possession of good silver and crockery and cutlery tend to save all of them up for a smart dinner party; while for their own use, they actually go out of their way to buy lesser versions. This seems to me a rather strange way of living. If I could afford good silver and crockery and cutlery, I would use them everyday, especially when eating alone or en famille, and not save them for guests. Another excellent routine is to have a properly starched napkin of a good size – even, or especially, at breakfast or teatime. A beautifully crisp napkin makes eating exceptionally civilised.
My husband collects books but our library is full to bursting. We have first editions, well-loved books that we reread – but must he keep every single book, among them yellowing paperbacks from secondhand shops? Do you occasionally prune your own collection, or keep adding to it, as my husband does?
I have so many books that every time I happen to ogle at them for more than 10 seconds, I feel a monumental urge to put them in order. But because they are scattered over four homes across thousands of miles, it invariably means that whenever I try to brave the task, I almost immediately feel defeated and surrender. But I wouldn’t have it any other way: I love being surrounded by books, not only on shelves, but piled up on my desks, as well as on the floor, and almost on any flat surfaces. The beauty of such chaos is that occasionally I spot a book with delight either because I had previously failed to find it, or because it is a volume that I suddenly want to leaf through or read. It is this kind of serendipity that marks the joy of being submerged in books at random. You shouldn’t worry about paperbacks mixing with first editions. Applying apartheid to books is as sinful as the real thing, because it is the content and not the binding that defines a volume. They must all cohabit happily and without prejudice – sciences with arts, poetry with references, novels with biographies, and textbooks with comics! I never prune: throwing away a book shows huge disrespect. And of course I add to my collection: the possession of more books, through the bliss of visiting a bookshop or compiling special collections, is the greatest extension to our minds. On my tomb stone, I would have the epitaph from Belloc: “When I am dead, I hope it may be said, ‘His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.’”
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