ME and Ophelia

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Modern Manners

Thanks to Madhu for finding another jewel: Eversohumble's post and interesting comments on saving/preserving a blog - and this photo, called bootflowers.

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Sorry, light blogging here may continue.

Catching up and working on posts.

Rough week and maybe another yet to come.

Started up some new blogs.

Published one post over at Sudan Watch yesterday.

But pulled it today because it wasn't what I wanted to say.

Not getting enough rest.

Or biting off more than I can chew.

This is a bit embarrassing to admit:

I now have eleven blogs.


Can't even keep up with this one :-)

Sudan Watch
China Tibet Watch
Asia Oil Watch
Syria Watch
North Korea Watch
Tehran Watch
Congo Watch
Uganda Watch
Africa Aid Watch

Please forgive my delay in replying to emails and comments recently received. I aim to catch up in next few weeks. Been busy resting, thinking and working on ideas. Ophelia's perfect as usual and asleep on her chair right now.

Note, to PP who emailed me from Khartoum: sorry reply I sent was returned to me marked undeliverable. Hope you will email again with another address. It would be great to have an e-pal in Khartoum.
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Philip Howard on etiquette

This morning, whilst searching at Times Online for a report I'd read in today's Sunday Times, I saw a column on etiquette called "Modern Manners" by Philip Howard.

It came as a stark reminder of what some people worry about. My thoughts were into "Africa's descent into nightmare" - "The Rise of China" (see graphic) - and my latest post at China Tibet Watch (a favourite of mine, from this blog, entitled Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion.

Here are Philip Howard's Q&A's. I'm not endorsing any of the answers. I find it hard to believe even the questions are for real! Wonder how Ms Teabag and Mr Red Pen cope with real problems. As for mailboxes in Washington, instead of moving house, Philip Howard could have suggested they pay to have the mail boxes moved elsewhere.
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Question: I am organising our annual company sales meeting. I have invited several corporate managers to make presentations to the team before dinner. A senior manager has informed me that he will not attend the dinner if I serve alcohol; he’s a Muslim. He is insisting that cocktails not be served until he has had a chance to deliver his presentation and leave, an hour or more into the event. While I appreciate his beliefs, I cannot very well cancel the happy-hour bar for 200 associates. In this time of religious sensitivities, I don't want to offend, but I can't keep 200 sales people "beverage free" for that long. Any suggestions? A. Parker, New York

Answer: There is nothing in the Koran that forbids Muslims to associate with non-believers who drink alcohol. Indeed one surah admits the possibility that believers are known to drink: "Believers, do not approach your prayers when you are drunk, but wait till you can grasp the meaning of your words." I do not think that this is a profitable line to pursue with your senior manager. It is, of course, bad manners to bully and browbeat others into your belief, as some born-again Christians and all such zealots do. I should try to have a calm discussion face to face or by e-mail with your man. Would he not come to the dinner if you arranged an alcohol-free table or side room for him? Would he consider speaking right at the beginning of the presentations? He could then leave with honour, to let alcohol be unconfined. If he persists in being impossible, you must explain to him, politely, that you cannot run a conference to suit the dietary and religious preferences of a single person. Without irritating his religious mania. Tricky. You may, in the long run, have to withdraw the invitation to speak. A sales conference in New York without booze is a relay race without a baton.
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Question: I am extremely shy and find it very difficult to mingle even at pleasant events, such as parties given by friends. It is even worse when it comes to events related to my job, such as training or meetings with colleagues or clients. I don't lack subjects that I could talk about, but I still don't know "the trick", and I try to avoid those situations completely. I don't want hurt other people's feelings by declining their invitations. Astrid Loos, Cologne, Germany

Answer: Well, I know the feeling. I tend to avoid book launches, on the grounds that if I attend one, why don't I attend them all? And who wants to spend an evening with professional liggers and freeloaders drinking warm Bulgarian chardonnay out of plastic cups, while listening to puffery and promotional speeches? But this attitude is a bit surly and churlish, Hein? I think that we shrinking violets have to make the effort out of politeness and professionalism. Sensible people value you for your presence and your ideas. You will find that committeewomanship improves with practice. When you hear the rubbish that the others talk, you will become less diffident about your own offerings. Good luck. There. I have talked myself into going to a ghastly meeting today.
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Question: In restaurants in the US and Canada, tea is often served with the teabag in a pot of water. When should the teabag be removed to avoid a strong and bitter tea? Where should the soggy teabag be placed? Rarely is there a special dish for it, and the saucer is too small. Susan Johnston, Seattle, Washington

Answer: Serious UK tea-drinkers regard the tea bag as Low Life, and a restaurant that provides no slop basin, saucer or ashtray for the detritus of the tea ceremony as hopeless. I should ask the waiter for a saucer. But do not let sloppy service put you off the drink that cheers but does not inebriate.
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Question: My secretary claims that amending draft letters, reviews, etc, in red ink is extremely bad manners. I use red so that the corrections stand out. Should all red pens, at least in the UK, be consigned to the waste paper basket? Marcella Shone, Newcastle upon Tyne

Answer: No. They serve a purpose for teachers marking work, subs, me making notes that I want to stand out. The point about corrections is that they SHOULD stand out. Otherwise, how do we remember or make them? Your secretary may be hypersensitive at her errors being highlighted. But the way to cure that is for her to stop making so many errors. If she is otherwise a good secretary, flatter her petulance by making your corrections in blue or black (not green). But if she is just a useless prima donna, you must find a way of employing a better, less hysterical secretary.
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Question: A work colleague is getting married and, rather than have a wedding gift list, she and her fiancé would prefer contributions toward their honeymoon. How should they word this correctly on the invitation so as not to cause offence? Janina Diggins, High Wycombe, Bucks

Answer: Dashed tricky. Any suggestion of money passing hands, at any rate in southern English weddings, is deemed Charlie and mercenary. Not so in many other parts of the world, where notes are stuffed down the bride's belt. If your friends are convinced that this is what they want, they could put at the bottom of the invitation: "Wedding present list --- vouchers to Ripoff and Seasick Inc", or whatever is the name of the travel agent. But I cannot see myself having the cheek to do so. Perhaps it would be better to say nothing on the invitation, but explain by word of mouth when asked. Good luck.
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Question: My husband and I live an apartment building where our living room window faces on to the mailboxes. Other tenants come to check their mail with their mobile phones and cigarettes without paying attention to the fact that our living room window is open and we, as non-smokers, inhale their smoke. My husband has had an angioplasty procedure and it is not good for him to breathe this air. I don't feel well breathing it either. We have to use an additional fan to air the room. I explained the situation to one of the tenants who was smoking while checking his mail, but although he listened to me, he never took the cigarette out of his mouth. Our neighbor next door smokes constantly and her boyfriend, when he visits her, smokes cigars. Lucy Benson, Washington

Answer: They sound selfish neighbours. But range warfare with one's neighbours is as bad for one's health as passive smoking. I cannot imagine responding to your request as your cigarette-smoking neighbour did. All that you can do is to persevere with patience and good humour. I suppose you cannot change your living room for one that looks away from the mailboxes? Could your doctor give you a note about your husband's condition? Could you not write to the local paper, more likely to have an effect than even The Times of London. Good luck, anyway. Courage. Not rage, but courage, and humour, and maybe a couple of masks for mail-collection time.
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Question: Is it all right for the woman to take the lead in asking a man on a date? I like the look of a nice young man at the office. But he never seems to get any farther than an occasional drink after work. Angela Greenfield, Birmingham

Answer: Yes, of course it's OK. There always has been a bit of Boy Scouting but Girl Guiding in dating relationships. Women are generally more sensitive and sensible than young men. But the trick is not to let him realise that you are leading, or to embarrass or frighten your shy prey. Next time you go for an after-work drink say, casually: "Hey, there is this film coming to the local Rialto that I really want to see. Fancy coming, if I can get tickets?" Casually. Carefully. Not making a big deal of it. Your instincts will lead you.
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Question: We have been invited to a charity dinner. The invitation says "Black Tie Optional". Does that mean "compulsory"? Martyn Miller, Middlesborough

Answer: No. It is simpler to read all such invitations literally. I think that it means that the top table will be in black ties and evening and cocktail frocks. And hoi polloi lower down the hall will be mixed, depending on whether they have come straight from work or possess a DJ. Dress as well as you can, whether in DJ or lounge, to honour the charity. But the most sincere way to honour the charity is to go with a cheerful countenance, a humorous heart and an open purse. The kit you wear in a display parade is a minor and trivial consideration.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 9/19/2004
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