I mused to myself whilst standing in the queue for the self-checkout at a well-known supermarket. Incidentally, if ever there was a misnomer is it not ‘self-checkout’, as the only part of the self involved is self-control as you restrain yourself from hurling a packet of crisps and a bottle of Bacardi (note my healthy eating habits), half way across the neighbouring aisle as the screen apprises you to, “call an assistant”. The reason why I pondered if I had rudely ignored somebody was the result of one of the aforementioned customer assistants yelling “Oi, mate, one’s free over there” as I waited my turn to wrestle with modern technology. Mate? Did the callow youth attracting my attention go to school with me? Possibly his mother? Call me old-fashioned (and yes, I am aware that most of you do; no drain pipe legged, shiny material, slim-fit suits for me, thank you very much), but I have always been of the opinion that one should address any one that you do not know, as Mr or Mrs/Miss /Ms (for the burn-your-bra sorority) until told otherwise by the person whom you are addressing. ‘My dear chap’ may be a little excessive, but ‘Oi mate’ does take the proverbial.
According to the editor of Tatler, good manners as are important as GCSE and A-level grades when it comes to forging a successful career. Admittedly, the readership of the glossy is targeted at a demographic where the wealth that the readers are enjoying now was accrued sometime after William hopped off the boat at Hastings, but Kate Reardon made a valid point when stating that people should focus on being “polite and respectful” as well as gaining qualifications and not resorting to hiding behind a phone or computer screen when communicating with another human being. Bennett Cerf, the American founder of the behemoth publishing firm, Random House commented, “Good manners. The noise you don’t make when eating soup”. Good manners are not solely about eating asparagus with your left hand (followers of Debrett’s will know why this is), or using the correct spoon, but being polite and respectful to people so that they feel valued. Transposing this to the property market, certain agents ‘accompanying’ potential purchasers to properties, opening the door with a nonchalant, ‘there you go’ before obsessing over their phone/tablet does not make somebody feel valued, be it the potential buyer or the vendor who is entrusting their property (and ultimately their money) into the agent’s tender care.
The theme of standards again came to my attention whilst I was reading The Daily Telegraph earlier in the week. The pottery industry in its heartland of Stoke-on-Trent is booming. Not because of its prodigal son, Robbie Williams decorating his Hollywood home with whimsical china figurines, but because French gypsies are turning up by the caravan-load to buy Royal Albert and Royal Doulton china, as they will only eat or drink from these types of crockery. The fact that it can be flogged for double or treble the amount back in France has, of course, no relevance. The article led with the searching question of who today actually drinks tea from a china cup and saucer? Well actually, I do; as countless beleaguered negotiators in various estate agencies across South Wales will testify, (not forgetting the current and previous Mrs Cheshire). I must ask my mother whether she ever went on a caravan holiday to Normandy.