7 November 2011


In some ways, I admit that I am a bit old-fashioned because in everyday life I believe in the practice of good manners. I am grateful that my parents instilled good manners in me and I in turn (with a bit of help from Lady Pudding) sought to instil similar good manners in my children. We often reap what we sow and I am pleased to say that the respectful way our now grown-up children deal with other people demonstrates that our efforts certainly did not fall on stony ground.

In my former life as a teacher, I was often appalled by the poor manners of my flock. You'd see teachers struggling down corridors with their arms full of books trying to get through fire doors as the wildebeest horde rushed through, not one of them stopping helpfully to hold the door back. You'd say, "Please give the sheets out Johnny" and instead of "Certainly sir. No problem", you'd be more likely to hear: "Why can't somebody else do it?" or "Do I have to?". You'd give spare pens to penless "students" and they'd often not bother to say "thank you" or even remember to return them.

In ordinary life, I come across supermarket checkout personnel who happily hold private conversations across their conveyor belts as customers stand idly by like invisible people. I sometimes hear unbridled swearing on buses and on aeroplanes seats may be reclined on to your lap with no sign of a simple "Do you mind" from the ignoramus in front.

Flytippers, urban graffiti "artists", tailgaters on motorways, pub customers who won't wait their turn to be served, queue jumpers at bus stops, owners of pavement fouling canines - there are a lot of bad manners around.

As this blog attracts some youthful readers, I thought it might be helpful if we older, more mature, exceedingly well-mannered and fine, upstanding members of our respective communities drew up some guidelines to assist in the promotion of good manners. I'll start the ball rolling with half a dozen rules:-

1) If somebody gives you something - unless it's a sexually transmitted disease or a smack in the mouth - say "thank you".
2) If making a request of any description, supplement it with the simple word "please".
3) Look people in the eye when you are talking to them.
4) If you accidentally drop a piece of litter, pick it up and drop it in the nearest bin.
5) If you own a mobile phone, make sure that it is switched off during meetings, in the theatre or cinema, when travelling on public transport or when attending ceremonies such as funerals.
6) Help older people by holding doors open for them, giving up your seat to them on crowded public transport vehicles or - in the case of known neighbours - simply asking them if there's anything you can do for them.

Please suggest some other rules for those who clearly find the acquisition of good manners extremely challenging.


  1. As much as those many idiosyncratic imperial British manners are important to us, (and sadly will be defunct eventually, like it or lump it) in Thailand for example there is only one main manner and that is respect of anyone higher than you- normally equating to age- but also to do with acquired status.

    The age thing is signified by the spoken and written moniker 'P' for Pii as in old and 'N' for Nong as in young. Younger people must also wai elders. How wonderful it is to see that being evident within the few years of difference with school children.

    This fundamentally is the overarching framework that is missing from the manners that you speak of. Even my generation were taught (as in Thailand) to respect our elders, even those just a few years ahead in experience. Then everybody knows their position regardless of class. Respect is given and returned, so that all are happy.

    The issues of class, status and caste is another thing that can never sit that well with the likes of us but, I know that 'doffing their caps' as in modern day Thailand, never did my grandmother's generation much harm.

    And in comparison with what we have now, it was a far better society if brimming with inequality...

    Maybe a bit conservative as a notion but ironically it is the Conservatives that have created the lack of respect for others in the first place. I've always thought the New Labouresque moniker for Thatcherite Tories and subsequent administrations (Major's wet conservatism aside) should have and should be The Anarcho-Capitalist Liberal Party...

  2. I think the core of manners is the old-fashioned "Do as you would be done by."

  3. When I was growing up, I used to hate having to give up my seat on the bus, for instance, but comforted myself with the thought that, one day, it would be my turn. Sadly, these days you would be trampled in the crush rather than having someone stand back for you or offer you their seat.
    However, as I am, of course, one of your younger readers, I don't need to worry about that yet. ;)

  4. ok ok BIG BREATHS

    1. People should control their children in public.... screaming and running around like little animals is not acceptable
    2 stop this bloodt irritating habit of riding your bike on the pavements
    3 people in the cinema should get there on time (if not early) and should NOT speak
    4 people should stop respectifully what they are doing when a funeral passes

    I have not even started yet

  5. MY DEAR VISCOUNT BOOTH Thank you your Grace for your reflections on a topic that I am sure nibbles at everybody - even those who appear to have no concept of "manners". I guess that in their own minds they judge that they are acting properly. Being in Thailand certainly does cause one to consider some basic questions about manners back home in England.
    MY DEAR LADY JENNY How gracious thou art ma'am to deign to interject in this most humble of weblogs. Thy youth is legendary in the bishopric of Wrexham and in the buttercupped fields of northern Wales. Even as the winter approaches, thy youthful beauty increases. From the bottom of my heart, I thank thee and bow to thee - thy servant always.
    DAME DAPHNE OF ALWOODLEY Like the fair Lady Jenny, I greet thee and offer a wheatfield of thanks for thy wisdom and wise contribution. How would I be done by? Why, I would be done by the angels that trumpet o'er the Elysian fields. A thousand thank yous for there ain't nothing like a dame.
    EARL GRAY of GRAYMALKIN Oh Lord of the Earth and all the beasts and birds that dwell therein, thy supplementary rules speak of thy immeasurable dignity and honour. My agreement is total and hence my gratitude is as wide and as deep as the ocean that perpetually laps at these ill-mannered shores. I bow to thee good sir.

  6. Spitting. It seems rife these days and without having TB as an excuse. Everyone thinks they're Premiership footballers. I spotted a linesman spitting on a televised match the other week.

    And don't get me started on chewing gum. Or healthy people who think it is okay to park in disabled bays.

  7. DUKE OF PARROTSHIRE Greetings noble Duke. Bountiful thanks for thy esteemed contribution which, recognising thy infirmities, I shall hence convert into "rules" as first requested:-
    1) No spitting in public places or in full view of other citizens. If you must spit do it in private.
    2) If you do not possess a disabled badge you most definitely must not park in any bays that are clearly reserved for disabled fellow citizens as that could be injurious to their well-being.
    3) If you must masticate chewing gum, dispose of it sensibly and hygienically. Wrap it in paper and toss it in the nearest waste-bin.

    Undoubtedly, other commenters will concur utterly with these extra rules.

  8. I have no rules to add, only that I take it as a personal job to enforce them all. The teenagers I've known have simply never been taught anything, so I'm happy to pull them aside and clue them in..."People will like you better if..." I saw a young man toss a paper out his car window one day and made him get out and pick it up. By the time I'd finished with him, he was crying (well, that was a shock). My own kid, of course, is a prince. Not because he was forced to have good manners, he was simply taught what they were and found out very early how that benefitted him.

  9. DUCHESS JAN When Blogland is inaugurated, I shall be backing you to become our first Minister of Justice! Your uniform will include patent leather thighboots and a bullwhip!

  10. Lord Pudding, whilst I, yr most humble and obdt svt, was busily attending to my duties at the Cherokee County polls yesterday, your own magnificence produced a wonderfully cogent, highly entertaining, and, if I may add, well-illustrated post. I'm sorry I didn't find it until today.

    Your exalted superiorness has made me think of your new Minister of Justice in a completely different light than heretofore.

    But speaking of thigh boots and bullwhips, I feel compelled to urge John Gray never to come to the United States as the citizenry here as decreed that bicycles SHOULD be ridden on the pavement and not on the sidewalks where pedestrians might be run over anon.

  11. I would add that one of the things I find extremely irritating is the habit in the past twenty or so years of males keeping their hats (usually baseball caps) on their heads indoors, even in church services.
    Perhaps this is tangentially related to good manners, but I am at a loss as to explain how.


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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