On the joint piece that Lucy Kellaway and I wrote recently, a sizeable mailbag arrived, mostly satisfactory I am glad to report. But I could not help noticing that there was also a group of whom I could only regard as FT voyeurs writing in with questions about the photographs and video. It was as if over porridge at the weekend breakfast table, Sherlock Holmes practitioners brought out their magnifying glasses to look for forensic clues in my set at Albany.
Several of them were suspicious that there were five cups and saucers when there were just two of us; and that there did not seem to be a teapot. To these charges, I should point out that while the dialogue took place only between Lucy and myself, we did also have in attendance two cameramen and a photographer. Ergo, there were five of us. I am disappointed that these snoopers did not have the courtesy to include the crew, who were the real workers. Although there was no teapot, there was a flask which I always use to keep my tea hot. Indeed, the flask is a very smart one designed by Lord Linley. It is much more efficient and much less dowdy than a tea cosy.
Another reader complained that I seemed to have invitations on my chimney piece in order to show off my connections in the social world. This was simply incorrect, as all the cards are shooting cards with wonderful records of dear friends as guns, and the drives we shot at, with the division of birds shot. These are not showing-off items but reminders of my indulgent passion for shooting. After all, the pheasant was originally indigenous to China and it is a beautiful bird to which I particularly relate.
Then someone else accused me of showing off by having a framed picture of myself with the Pope. As a Catholic, I regard my private audience with the Holy Father as a saintly encounter that is worthy of being an exceptional reminder. Otherwise I have over the years become rather indifferent to photographs. At my 60th birthday, attended by hundreds of guests, I did not take any photograph, nor did I ask a photographer to be there to snap away. I have not a single photograph of that happy occasion.
Anyway, I am flattered that readers had the time to tooth-comb my set at Albany for clues of my existence. One was particularly interested in what I read, and wished he could zoom in on my books in the book cupboards, of which I have six big ones. I can reveal that they are largely old books on the subjects of physics, philosophy and law from my student days, as well as a great number of biographies and art books. In one cupboard in my bedroom, I have 350 books of Chinese thrillers and tales of mysteries written in English. So Fu Manchu and Judge Dee figure prominently in front of me as I go to sleep.
What are the modern etiquettes regarding LGBT?
All I would say on this question is that one does not wish to be living in North Carolina, which in March 2016 passed a Bathroom Bill which requires a transgender person to use the lavatory appropriate to their birth-assigned gender. Therefore, in that state, a woman should not be surprised to find a transgender man barging into her lavatory and using the facility standing up; nor for a man to see a transgender woman enter the lavatory and hesitate about using the urinal.
I hope Britain will never see the day when someone using a public lavatory might have to produce their birth certificate before entering. In any event, long gone are the days when being gay or bisexual was remotely an issue. Transgender seems to be the current flavour and there seems to be a lot of fuss about who wants what.
I remember the cause célèbre in France in 1986 when a French diplomat was jailed for treason after passing secrets to his lover, a Chinese opera singer, who turned out to be a man. Apparently, for more than 20 years, the Frenchman thought his lover was a woman with whom he had a child, although the child had been secretly adopted. It was a bizarre case and remembering it makes me realise that nothing really shocks me any more.
Overall, I believe the right approach is to be totally relaxed about the issue of open sexuality, by which I mean we should accept everyone who wants to represent themselves as a man or a woman. I don’t care unless I become romantically involved with them.
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‘Rules For Modern Life’, a selection of David Tang’s FT columns, is published by Penguin
Photograph: Sara D Davis/Getty Images
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