The stud dilemma

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

I have a friend who has an important art collection that includes some French impressionists. He has had much of his collection photographed. If a charity function is held in his home, or if he is travelling, the fakes are hung and the originals go into the vault. His insurers appreciate his efforts. The Annenberg Foundation had all the art it donated to the Met photographed for placement, in duplicate frames, in the same location it originally hung in the now restored residence. What do you think?

First, observe to your friend that it is not the business of his insurers to be patronising. The truth is that one should only have fakes if one cannot afford the originals. When one can afford the originals, one should never have fakes. Your friend should simply insure his collection and let it all hang out at all times. I love to be surrounded eternally by beautiful originals. Even when I go away, I like to think that the paintings are having a rest at home, and not in some dark vault in the basement. Decent paintings should be treated like animated objects because they have a life of their own and they need to breathe, so shutting them up is very unhealthy for them. And unhealthy for the owner. When your friend gives a party, that is precisely when he should show off his paintings. Mere mortals will then be able to appreciate what it is like to live in a home in which masterpieces are hung everywhere. But tell your friend to remember not to go on about them, as that is the vulgar behaviour one has come to expect from rich bores. Be nonchalant and only answer questions when asked. He will undoubtedly appreciate comments by the cognoscenti, and take pleasure in identifying the ignoramuses, as well as the phonies.

The photographed versions at the Annenberg House are different because it is a well-known fact that the originals are hung at the Met, and that the duplicates are there to evoke the atmosphere of the House when it was used by the family. The Annenbergs are great American benefactors to Britain. So attentive were they that they donated the heated swimming pool at Chequers, even if Lady Thatcher decided not to heat it all year round because of the extravagant cost.

Someone I know has been invited to appear on Question Time. I am inclined to advise against as a very eminent and clever wordsmith friend of mine told me that the sheer nerves involved meant he had to change his shirt and trousers twice before going on air. Have you ever appeared on Question Time and if not, why not, and what is your advice to someone invited to do the same?

Your friend might be a wordsmith, but he is clearly not at all cool. With his particular propensity, he would have to come in a caravan with a washing machine and dryer. I have been on Question Time with David Dimbleby, as well as the wireless version with Jonathan Dimbleby. I am happy to report that I didn’t sweat like your friend, which I might do if I were to be sharing digs with Hannibal Lecter.

The trick in answering the questions is not to ramble on but just to make a couple of points, then shut up. Much more effective to be terse than longwinded. Use memorable or unexpected phrases, which you might prepare beforehand in your mind as you rehearse, which you must, the current news. If you are vain and pine for applause from the audience, then try to slag off politicians at large. Always go for David and pulverise Goliath. It is a programme on which one comes across well by being a champion of Little Englanders.

I am far too frequently required to wear white tie and tails. Can you advise me on the most elegant, trouble-free method for putting on a starched boiled shirt with its accompanying studs etc, so that the studs don’t work loose?

I don’t know where you live, what you do, nor the circle of people around whom you move. Even in London, there aren’t so many dinners at which white tie is required. Let me guess: you must be a toastmaster, and it is your job to wear a white tie and stand up to introduce some crashing bore or propose the Loyal Toast.

Just be aware that there are two kinds of studs: the ones that one flicks to the perpendicular, used on the front of a shirt including the collar, and the immovable ones that are used for the back of a collar. Always put the studs on calmly. And clean your fingernails!

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