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?