Friday, 14 September 2012

The League of Gentlemen

I had an interesting PR email yesterday. You know, not the normal stuff about giving somebody a free plug and pretending you've not been asked to do it but something really rather interesting. To me, anyway.

It came from a sock seller (that's not the interesting bit, although I did notice that this particular purveyor of fine footwear followed the Henry Ford philosophy - any colour as long as its black). No, the interesting thing was a survey entitled 'UK Men Have Forgotten How To Act Like Gentlemen' and claiming that 'overwhelming numbers of men do not abide by even the very basic standards of etiquette.'

Well, there's the sound of a gauntlet being thrown down if ever I heard it. (Talking of which, did you know that the Lord of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire - just slightly north of where I live - is the Queen's official champion, obliged - as have his family for centuries - to pick up any gauntlet thrown at Her Majesty's feet and fight the offender in a duel? No, I didn't think you did.)

Here are some more choice snippets:
  • Only 4% of men would be willing to give up their seat for a pregnant lady or elderly person.
  • 46% of men admitted to spitting in public
  • Only 40% of men held doors open for ladies on a regular basis
  • Only a shameful 4% of gentlemen claimed that they never swore in public
Ah. Now, that's where it gets a little, well... You see, I like to think of myself as possessing at least some vestige of gentlemanly manners. I was brought up to say 'please' and 'thank you', write handwritten notes of gratitude for birthday presents (sorry, incidentally, to those who haven't even had so much as a spoken word of thanks on the telephone for my recent birthday presents... you know who you are!). And in spite of the fact that it has, at times, caused some slight embarrassment, I do like to hold doors open when I can. (Which is usually when I'm not struggling one-handed with a pushchair whilst simultaneously trying to guide Charlie through a shop door.) 

But my feet are made of clay. You see, I'm afraid I'm firmly in the 96% who can't claim never to have sworn in public; in fact, I'm often guilty of swearing and don't know quite what to do about it. Contrary to the rather prissy admonishment in the sock company's email that swearing only succeeds in 'showing that you have a distinct lack of vocabulary and an inability to express your thoughts appropriately' I rather think of it as a full and frank embracing of the language - especially the Anglo-Saxon bits. I quite like swearing.

But I would never spit. And yet many people do, from footballers on the pitch to people round here on the streets. (Honestly, the game of avoiding the gob is second only to steering round the dog poo on our route to school.) And I would always - if I can, and if its required - open a door and give up a seat. And I had no idea, no idea at all, that I was part of such a small minority.

So, what do you think? Ladies, would you be offended if I held open the door, walked on the outside of the pavement or offered you my seat? 

And gents (if I may thus address you)... are you?


  1. I would not be offended, indeed I'd be delighted. Boorish uncouth men are no pleasure to be with. Just because it's not expected in today's hard as nails world, it's even more welcome when it happens.

  2. Oh yes, I would also hold a door open for a lady. (Not sure about women in general though).

  3. Hi Tim

    Glad you liked our press release. Hopefully it struck a chord with the rest of the UK as we do need to reminded on basic manners it seems.


  4. I don't mind anyone holding the door open for me, and find that women do it as often as men do. It's just nice not to have someone barge through in front of me or leave it to swing closed as I'm approaching.

  5. In that case don't go to France, where I lived for 12 years - manners has been removed from the dictionary there! What a breath of fresh air moving back to the UK and to the (mostly) good manners of gentlemen here. On a busy commuter tube I often see/experience men offering seats to women when they are freed up rather than sitting down on them themselves. What a welcome surprise!

  6. Having fainted on the train on the way into work last week I can say that 4% may be pushing it a little in terms of giving up seats - even when heavily pregnant I found there were times when even a plaintive request to sit down got ignored


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