I RECENTLY had occasion to visit the Institute of Modern Etiquette. This is a fine organisation which has provided me with the wherewithal to navigate through 21st-century social interaction without which I would no doubt be either shunned, arrested or murdered.
But so much of its work goes unnoticed, so this week I interviewed Simon Flatley, the director of the Institute, to get an insight into its valuable role.
GARY BAINBRIDGE: Why don’t you tell me about the Institute’s history?
SIMON FLATLEY: Well, it became apparent, following developments in sexual politics . . .
BAINBRIDGE: Sexual politics, heh. Sounds like something Chris Huhne would do.
FLATLEY: . . . .and information technology that the world had changed and etiquette had to change with it.
BAINBRIDGE: What are they doing over there?
FLATLEY: Ah, that’s our IT team. They’re exploring appropriate responses to the news that one’s mother has added oneself as a friend on Facebook. Early findings are that sticking fingers in one’s ears and shouting “No, no, no, please, mum, no!” is ineffective.
BAINBRIDGE: And that one?
FLATLEY: Ah, that’s the middle- class guilt team. They look at the best ways of dealing with tradesmen and the working classes – how many times one has to make a cup of tea for the plumber, how to ask a cleaner to do a task without blushing, that sort of thing.
BAINBRIDGE: And taxis?
FLATLEY: Oh, that’s a sub-section of its own – we’re exploring whether one can get away with rounding one’s tip up to a pound if the meter has only just that second gone to 40p, and what to say when the taxi driver asks one which team one supports.
BAINBRIDGE: And what do you say?
FLATLEY: Early indications are “Cuh! What do you think, mate?” works best. The ‘mate’ is, of course, very important when dealing with the working classes. Also, ‘pal’ and ‘love.’
BAINBRIDGE: Erm, it’s funny you mention football. I’ve got a query of my own. Erm, imagine you work in an office with a load of tellies, a newspaper office, say. And the World Cup’s on all of them.
BAINBRIDGE: But you really want to see Roger Federer playing at Wimbledon. How do you broach that subject, without looking like a weedy big girl’s blouse? Hypothetically speaking, of course.
FLATLEY: Ah, that’s easy. Use this script: “Hey, lads. Venus Williams is on in a sec and she’s completely nude. Well, I say nude, she’s actually wearing an all-in- one body suit which is painted exactly like her body, because she thought that Ann Summers outfit she had the other week wasn’t quite saucy enough. In the meantime, let’s kill time by watching this boring Federer match.”
BAINBRIDGE: That’s genius. Simon Flatley, thank you.
NEWS that an American prisoner was executed by firing squad led to thoughts of last requests. If I were to be killed by firing squad, I would want the man from the Go Compare TV ad to serenade me.
Then, when the squad reloads after shooting him, I could say, “But look what I have delivered unto you.” And the governor would say, “Yeah, fair enough, off you go.”
You might think this is bad taste, but I suggest you take it up with the US Government. I only joke about shooting people dead; they actually do it.