Agony Uncle: How to deal with a cold reception

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Sir David Tang, globetrotter, entrepreneur, and the man about too many towns to mention, divides his time between homes in Hong Kong, mainland China and London.

He created the interiors for his Shanghai Tang shops and China Clubs and believes that style transcends nationality and race.

Here he offers stylish advice to everyday questions on property, interiors, etiquette at home (wherever you live) and anything else that may be bothering you.


As winter approaches I start to dread staying with friends at their draughty old houses in the country. Too often I find the log fires are ineffectual and the duvets wafer-thin. How do I tactfully suggest they turn on the central heating?

Arrive in some mountaineering gear with goggles resembling Captain Scott, and say you are practising to go to the Antarctic and would prefer, for assimilation, to keep all your clothes on for drinks and dinner. If your feeling cold were still to go unnoticed, blow into your gloved hands, shake like a jelly in a high wind and remark that your friend’s house provides perfect conditions for training. If you are not as daring as that, decline the invitation by citing hypothermia from the last visit.


My husband favours mid-century modern furniture and I can’t stop him buying cheap hardboard Danish rip-off sideboards and tables for extortionate prices. I’m all for antique oak and Louis XIV chintz!

Your preference for the rusticity of antique oak and the pretentiousness of Louis XIV chintz worries me. So I am not sure if your husband’s cheap modern furniture is any less acceptable. Remember that bad taste is sometimes acceptable if it is really bad taste (eg, kitsch can be amusing) but bad taste with pretensions is never acceptable.


Every Thanksgiving my extended family congregate for a potluck dinner. While the host generally provides the turkey, the rest of us bring along side dishes, desserts or bottles of wine, all except my cousin and his wife who for the past couple of years have arrived with a six-pack of coke. How can I make it clear that more is expected of them this year without causing offence?

Sponges should be confined to the bathroom, not the dining room. Seeing as they cause offence by being cheap and greedy, you would not cause offence by telling them loud and clear that they must bring something of higher value to be fair to all the others. I hate pussy-footing with candour when it involves a sense of fairness. We are too often clouded by what I regard and hate as bourgeois politeness, just as I am fed up with our world of political correctness calculated not to cause offence to a minority, when it invariably causes offence to the majority.


Can you recommend a stylish cabin bag for a man in his fifties when travelling on holiday? Rucksacks make me feel like an ageing hippy, a briefcase seems too formal and I am not the “man bag” type.

Goyard bags with one’s initials are the most stylish. They are particularly sophisticated because they look intriguing and yet not spanking new, and only a few realise how ridiculously expensive they are, and how long it takes (four months) to engrave their signature colour bands and your initials in smart relief. That understated elegance is precisely what a middle-aged man requires – the confidence of luxury without being flashy. It’s like having an ugly Bristol car. It looks awkward, and most people laugh at it, but it is amusing. I confess to having both a Goyard and a Bristol, so I practise what I preach.


Every year my large family and I do a “secret Santa”, where we each only receive one present worth £100. I always seem to end up with the sticky end of the lollipop. How can I reverse my fortunes?

Any gambler worth his salt must never cheat but unequivocally accept losses. To fix any raffle, particularly among family and friends, would be invidious. How can anyone even ask the question? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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