Lady of the manners

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What a wedding it’s going to be.

What a wedding it’s going to be.

patricia routledge

patricia routledge

Can you get me an invite?

There’s sure to be wedding cake flying and stilettoes drawn before dawn when Heidi Withers marries Freddie Bourne.

Just before the big day, you see, the bridegroom’s step-mother sent the bride a letter. It was not the sweet little message of good wishes you might expect.

Rather, it was a poisonous email listing Heidi’s “disgraceful” manners and berating the fact that stepson Freddie had ever met her.

She was the perfect candidate for Ladette To Lady, the TV show which attempts to smooth out the roughest of girls with a dose of old-fashioned, finishing school etiquette, the rant went on.

Outraged at the rudeness shown to her, the bride sent the rant to everyone in her address book.

And it didn’t stop there; so enraged were all Heidi’s friends, they passed it on to everyone in their address books, too.

And so it went on until eventually, the acid-coated words of Carolyn Bourne had turned into a chain email – an internet sensation.

Around the world, people have taken sides. One camp thinks 60-year-old Mrs Bourne from Devon sounds like a right toffee-nosed old cow and is bang out of order. Yet just as many think every salvo she launched at her “uncouth” future daughter-in-law after a recent visit was justly deserved.

That, as Carolyn, a real-life Hyacinth Bouquet if ever there was one, pointed out, ‘When you are a guest in another’s house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat, you do not remark that you do not have enough food, you do not start before everyone else. You do not take additional helpings without being invited to and you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early.”

She also complained Heidi had neglected to send a hand-written card thanking her for her hospitality – and told her that getting married in a castle was “brash, celebrity-style behaviour – unless you own it.”

So what IS good mannered in this day and age, and what is bad?

A guest, complaining about the food and lying in bed all day? How rude. I was with Mrs Bourne right until she got to the bit about the thank you card (I always forget to buy one. And what’s wrong with a text, anyway?)

Then her snobby comment about castles put me right off. If a bride wants her chav-tastic Disney day, why the hell shouldn’t she have it?

The inescapable fact, though, is this: if you’re so big on manners, you would never write such an offensive diatribe to anyone, least of all someone joining the clan.

No matter how hellish your guests, or how much you hate your kith and kin, it’s just not the done thing to tell them so. Your own good manners, and your innate Britishness, would switch to automatic and you would utter not a word of complaint.

The minute your guests have gone, of course, you close the door, sink to your knees with relief – and slag them off with the foulest obscenities you can muster. In private.

I think Mrs Bourne has met her match in her future daughter-in-law.

I mean, what kind of a person forwards a private letter on for public consumption? It’s the height of bad manners. They’re as bad as each other.

And I note that, amid the furore, the bridegroom-to-be and his father have declined to pass a single comment.

That’s not because they are the ones with the good manners. They’re just too damned lily-livered to join the fray.

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