Much as it may amaze my teenage children I was once attractive to women.
(“What did their guide dogs think of you, dad?”)
Yep, I had girlfriends before I married Jane. And very occasionally I’ll bump into one of them. And after about five minutes of the conversation they’ll sigh nostalgically...
No, not about me.
“Ah,” they’ll say lovingly, “Your dad was such a gentleman. He was so lovely.”
And he was. Everyone said so. I remember walking through town with my mum and dad one day. We crossed the road. Dad had been on my left. Now he suddenly materialised on my right.
“What are you doing, dad?”
“A gentleman always walks on a lady’s outside.”
“Does he? Why?”
“So she doesn’t get splashed when a horse and cart goes past.”
My dad said it with a straight face. Sadly I was at just that age. The one where you’ve discovered this amazing new toy called sarcasm...
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about manners this week. I stumbled across an article in the Guardian. A guide to modern manners by Debretts. No 5 - don’t eat a Subway Peri Peri Chicken sandwich on the Circle Line.
London-centric media? Don’t be ridiculous. That’s really useful advice in Hartlepool.
I think I have good manners. I consider myself to be polite. I hold doors open for people.
Last time I risked going to London (yes, of course I came back with a cold) I offered someone my seat on the Tube.
But clearly an objective answer was needed. And who is more objective than my wife? So I’ve carried out a survey. And here you’ll need to trust me. I’ve sent Jane seven questions to check whether I’m a gentleman or not. Will my dad be looking down with pride or should I prepare for the imminent arrival of a thunderbolt?
Here they are – I think I might score four or five. I emailed them about ten minutes ago. She hasn’t replied. Let’s hope she’s in a meeting. Not hospitalised with shock.
1. Do I hold the door open for you?
2. Do I hold the car door open for you?
3. Do I walk on the outside of the pavement so you don’t get splashed?
4. Do I buy you surprise presents?
5. If we’re eating out, do I stand up when you come back to the table?
6. Do I help you on with your coat?
7. Do I buy you flowers?
More times passes. Maybe she can’t even bring herself to reply. Maybe –
An answer! Have I passed? Quite possibly...
1. Yes, always
2. Not very often
3. Sometimes. Your dad always did (see what I mean?)
4. Little things (I think that means not enough jewellery...)
Cynics might say there’s an element of self-selection: I chose questions I knew had a good chance of ‘yes.’ But, come on. Not bad – I score that at 4½ or 5.
Husband of the Year or what?
I was so cheered by Jane’s response that I immediately sent the questions to my Beloved Daughter, prefixed with ‘does your current boyfriend.’
An astonishing reply sped back. Whoever she’s walking out with at the moment scores quite highly – when due allowances are made for the poverty of student life.
Mind you, Jessica is a modern woman. No 6 receives short shrift. “Only if my arms have stopped working. Fully capable of dressing myself.”
But well done that man. Whoever you are. Maybe it won’t be as long as I’d thought before he’s standing in front of me, stammering nervously. ‘With your permission, sir...’