Look on my works, ye mighty ...

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

I have taken the restored Oriental Express train from Bangkok to Singapore. I would like to report that the atmosphere was marvellous. Indeed, it was nothing like your woeful commentary on modern trains. There was one minor flaw. The train may have been the Dreamliner of its day, but I did not get any sleep for two nights on the bumpiest ride ever. I will never ride an old train overnight again.

I agree that the Orient Express [sic] in Asia is superior to the one in Europe, if only because the latter does not offer en suite lavatories! That’s why I always laugh when I see rather glamorous advertisements of that famous railway invoking the romance of dining à deux in plush velvets and flickering table lamps between Paris and Istanbul. I can hardly imagine a woman, especially a mature one with a mature file on facelifts, wearing a load of make-up in a fur coat, dripping in jewellery, accompanied by a set of Louis Vuitton luggage, having to walk along the corridor in her flowing negligee at night, passing other cabins to go to the lav – especially with the possible horror of it being “engaged”.

You should not complain about your bumpy ride. Part of the charm of travelling on an old train is to travel back in time. It’s like driving an Aston Martin DB5 with a manual gear box and a hard clutch, with no power steering. It is not an easy drive, but one can pretend to be James Bond. So just imagine yourself to be Hercule Poirot as you are tossed about along the romantic tracks between Kuala Lumpur and Chiang Mai.

. . .

I have just been to Abu Dhabi and noticed enormous hotels built with more marble than the Taj Mahal, and white sand beaches that stretch for miles. Yet I can’t help feeling something is missing. What is it?

People, and therefore human spirits, are missing. It is naive to think that the hardware of monumental buildings is sufficient to create atmosphere. Without the provenance of people, a place, however beautiful, can be totally dead. It explains the kind of unsatisfactory feeling I sometimes have even with spectacular sceneries in countries like Canada and Australia. Yet when I, say, go shooting in the ordinary countryside and see a simple line of guns and loaders and packs of dogs sauntering across the fields, I always get that satisfactory feeling of the marvel of man and nature. The magic comes precisely from their relationship.

That’s why ruins are so attractive and romantic, because they mark the events of man. Who can fail to love Shelley’s “Ozymandias”: “ ... Round the decay/ Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away ... ”? How I wish the sands at Abu Dhabi were filled with “trunkless legs” instead of parasols. Where are the shadows of all those magnificent Arabic warriors and horsemen, with steeds like no others? Where are their grandiose tents and glittering thobes and bishts and sparkling swords?

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I am in mild need of a new shooting suit but am hesitant in going to many obvious choices because of a reluctance to get threads similar to everyone else. You have a smart grey suit that I recall admiring. Where would you recommend? I imagine you to be the definitive expert on something so subtle and important.

A new shooting suit is an open invitation to be mobbed up by others. Much smarter for your suit to be threadbare than for you to have new threads. Indeed, you will always find good shots in well-worn suits, often with noticeable darning or patches that nouveaux brands like Dunhill put on to new jackets ab initio, which is exceedingly common. In any event, a gun would always be wearing an old Barbour over the suit. So why bother with a new suit? It is dangerous to dress too smartly at a shoot when you can’t shoot properly. It’s infinitely better to be a crack shot in shabby clothes than to be a crap shot in fancy gear.

. . .

In his footnote to your column ‘Mind the gap in standards’ on November 2, 2012, Ed [Who he? Ed.] alleges that you “tinkle” the plastics on an electronic keyboard (as opposed to the ivories on a piano). Surely he means “tickle”.

First of all, Ed. stands for editor. Have you never read Private Eye? Secondly, my editor is a woman and not a man. Thirdly, the predicate is always “tinkle” and never “tickle”, ivories or not. Therefore, you are ignorant on the first count; presumptuous on your second; and uneducated on your third. Anything else?

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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