Sins of the godfather

Sir David Tang, founder of ICorrect, globetrotter, and the man about too many towns to mention, divides his time between homes in Hong Kong, mainland China and London. Here he invites readers’ queries for his advice on property, interiors, etiquette at home (wherever you live), parties and anything else that may be bothering you.

My wife and I asked an old friend to be godfather to our eldest child and he agreed. Since then, however, he’s quit his job and has not worked for two years. To boot, he has generally become unreliable in all respects. We regret our decision and would like to choose someone else now. What should we do?

You should immediately relate the biblical story of the prodigal son to your child so that your child will live in hope that the godfather will come right again. This will conveniently instil a sense of charity and tolerance on the part of the child, making you not only a good father but a good surrogate godfather. I am afraid that as a godfather to 31 godchildren myself, I have not been exactly meticulous in discharging all of my individual duties, and so I hesitate to plead mitigation towards derelictions by godparents. Indeed, I can tell you that a few parents have made it known to me that they had appointed “honorary” godparents in my place and distaste. (What a beautiful zeugma!) Therefore, you might do the same. Get someone richer and more dependable and substitute your wayward friend by an “honorary” godparental appointment, in case the prodigal son does not limp back.

I’m a mixed European Jew, my wife’s Chinese, we live in London and have one lovely toddler and a great modern house. Our toddler goes to nursery, and now my wife wants to work again. She’s bright, with UK and CHN business degrees. Her work history was banking, though as she says, she’s no entrepreneur, more a very methodical number two who is very tight on detail – and she is. We are not pushy networkers. Any serious suggestions would be welcomed.

Somehow your question reminds me of the marvellous story of the two rabbis going to a Chinese restaurant and asking the waiter if he knew of any Chinese Jews. “No Chinese Jews,” the waiter answered. But the rabbis insisted that he might as well check with the chef in the kitchen, which he duly did. He returned and emphatically said, “Cook also say no Chinese Jews, no Chinese Jews – just orange juice and tomato juice!” Anyway, I don’t think your wife should position herself as number two of anything (other than perhaps your marriage itself!). Why shouldn’t she try for number one? It’s precisely because she has been good as number two that that should stand her in good stead to be number one. Just think of all those undergraduates getting a second-class degree at university. They should either get a first or a third or even fail. A second-class, or being number two, reeks of mediocrity.

We live in several places and cultures. My question to you is: suspenders (or braces) are necessary on the farm and ranch. They are also very nice to wear at the office. Certainly I’m talking about the nice Paul Stuart type. Is it a high note to wear a belt and suspenders or not?

It’s not a matter of style that belts or braces should be worn (indeed, colourful ones or ones with figures are particularly obnoxious) but rather on grounds of practicability. So when I used to be rather rotund, I wore a belt for flexible girth, or braces, which allow for even more comfort for the “spare tyre” around my waist. And I suspect functionality is also the reason for your wearing belts or braces on your farm, lest they fall down as you, say, climb down from your combine harvester. Mind you, I have always found that braces should be regarded as an inner garment, like underwear, and should not be shown. So I am pleased that Larry King, with his ghastly braces, has finally retired and his state of half-undress is now spared from our screen.

David – I like you, in a completely non-sexual way. Is this an acceptable feeling for a man? Kind regards, André.

Not if your name is André!

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