Tea….Earl Grey….. Hot!


(image from juniperspice.com)

Currently I am on my first diet of 2017.  I say first as I am very confident that there will be more this year as historically I am either “on” diet mode or very much “off”.  It’s normally easy to tell which mode I am currently in based on what I am holding in my hand….. cake=off and tea=on.

“Off” diet mode is a glorious time…. cakes, chocolates, half a dozen or so too many treats (daily, not weekly), alcohol, meals out….. it’s like my own ongoing food festival whilst all the time ignoring all the hard work and suffering endured during “on” diet mode and slowly undoing everything (including ultimately my jeans which will no longer zip up!)  The part of “off” diet mode that I have omitted to mention is coffee.   I love coffee.  Strong… milky…. and sweet….. and lots of it.

Halloween and the yearly appearance of the pumpkin spiced latte heralds the end of “on” mode and before the toffee nut latte has even put in an appearance… I’ve gained a stone.   In fact I could happily blame my love of coffee for my yearly 2.5 stone fluctuation in weight.  The moment I am in “off” mode, copious amounts of cups of coffee re-enter my life along with coffee’s evil friends of biscuits and cake.

I digress…. Earl Grey tea.   “On” mode is symbolised by tea.  I can’t drink coffee with sweeteners so I abandon coffee (except for one morning cup) and move on to tea.  Tea, 3 sweeteners and milk.  It has struck me though that I am choosing Earl Grey more and more.  Sometime with milk and sweeteners and sometimes black and on its own (I’m an all or nothing kind of person….. milk and sugar… or nothing!)  Personally, I find Earl Grey glorious both ways (however, I can feel the abhorrence radiating from the tea purists even now!  As a side point, I think I would drink it black more if it did not leave such a scummy mess in the cup – it’s quite off-putting!)

I love the bergamot taste.  Its refreshing.  Thirst quenching. It fills me with memories of summer, sitting in the garden basking in the sunshine – with my parents telling me to drink tea if I was too hot.  Over the past 6 months, teenage daughter has also started to swap teas and Earl Grey appears to be filling her cup quite regularly!

Unfortunately, the one thing my children cannot get to grips with is why every time I am asked if I want tea…. there is a shout from my office and simultaneously from my better half of “Tea… Earl Grey… Hot”, following by adult sniggers.   As far as us adults are concerned, this is pop culture that the children should know (spot the secret Trekkies).   I feel that today is the day I subject the children to an assortment of YouTube videos showing them the lovely Patrick Stewart asking for tea… over and over again.

Any who knew there was a Lady Grey tea……. ah!  My next tea mission awaits!

The English School of Manners & Etiquette



And me or and I…the simplest explanation

The simple explanation … no mention of subjects, verbs, or subject pronouns!

As a child I remember telling my parents over dinner what I had done that day with my friends.  Such moments were always interspersed with my father or mother correcting me with “and I”…. it would drive me insane!  However, being aware that what I was saying was incorrect, I would dutifully take note and in my next sentence would use “and I” only for my parents to correct me again and say “and me”…. what?? Wait…??  I seemed to be on a merry-go-round and I was convinced they were having the last laugh.

I see it now as I go through my Facebook feed – status updates of “Mike and me went to London” – or even worse, photographs labelled and “my husband and I on the beach”.

So in an attempt to clear things up once and for all – I’ll let you in to the “really everyone should know this” secret of how to get it right.

Remove the other person from the sentence, leaving only you there, and read it again!

Would you really say “me went to London”?  Would you ever label a photograph as “I on the beach”?

No, I didn’t think so – and that’s about as complex as it gets.

As a side note – traditionally it is considered courteous to place reference to yourself last so “he’ll ask you and me later” if far better than “he’ll ask me and you later”

Think before you speak and over time it will become automatic.  So there it is – take everyone else out of the scenario and you will find your answer – it’s a bit like life really…. other people ae there just to confuse you!


The English School of Manners & Etiquette

Cheese before pudding? Or, pudding and then cheese?


Over Christmas I had the annual pleasure of catering for my father’s Boxing Day bash – an event where my father invites his singleton friends (mostly widows or widowers) over to ensure that no one is feeling alone over the festive period.  The rules for the family are quite simple – you will be there.  Having normally provided Christmas dinner for around 12 people on Christmas Day, the prospect of another day of cooking and entertaining is never that appealing – once you add in a room full of elderly people where walking sticks and replacement hips outnumber guests and you can appreciate why I approach the day with a large amount of caffeine.

For my own sanity, I try to keep lunch simple with a hot soup with freshly baked bread (thank you teenage daughter), followed by a mix of leftovers from Christmas Day and a fresh roast joint, and rounded off with a mixture of around 3 puddings.  Bearing in mind, I am also keen on having some relaxation time with my own young family, I try to agree that I will leave after lunch (having washed and tidied up as much as possible) leaving my father to deal with an early evening meal of cold meats, cheese, biscuits, and fresh fruit.

Lunch was served around one o’clock and all appeared to be going well – right up until pudding when one of the guests requested a piece of cheesecake (again, thank you teenage daughter) and then refused to eat it until he had been served his cheese course!  He had heard there would be cheese and then boldly stated the he did not wish his palate to be ruined by having his sweet cheesecake before his cheese!  Taken aback by his rudeness I did gently inform him that he would be waiting some time before cheese, but undeterred by this, he continue to sit there waiting for his cheese to appear.  In the end, I had no choice than to be blunt and say that cheese would form part of his evening meal and suggested that he stopped being so rude.


This raises two issues – firstly the rudeness of a guest disagreeing with a host’s meal plan.  I am a firm believer that whenever you are invited as a guest then whatever your host provides as food should be welcomed with enthusiasm and thanks.  As the recipient of both an invitation and food, it is correct to thank your host and say how lovely the food looks whether you have been served a microwave meal or a technically challenging soufflé! It may not be quite what you were expecting but your host has gone to the trouble nevertheless and therefore thanks and appreciation are in order.

The second issue appears to have been brought back into the light by Mary Berry who mentioned in an article that she likes to serve cheese before pudding at her dinner parties.  At this point the internet was divided with some people agreeing that finishing a meal on a sweet note was preferable to switching between savoury, sweet, and then back to savoury.  But which is correct?  Having considered the arguments about cheese traditionally being served with port after a meal making the sweet/savoury argument a little redundant, and now having tried cheese before pudding – I can only conclude that both are perfectly fine and both very pleasant.  The one thing I continue to whole heartedly disagree with though, is a rude guest.  When a host has gone to the trouble (or in my case, put his daughter to the trouble) of providing a day of food and companionship – remember your manners!

What’s the rudest thing a guest has done that you have seen?

The English School of Manners & Etiquette


Queuing – the Great British pastime!


As a nation, the British feel compelled to queue – and if reputation is to be believed, us Brits are better than anyone else at forming a queue.

Trying to discover how and when queuing came to form such a large part of how we live is quite difficult, but it seems to have really come into its own during World War II.  At that time, the newspapers and radio were forever telling the public how everyone needed to “do their duty” and “take their turn”.  Queuing initially was associated with hardship with the poor queuing to accept handouts and charity.  As propaganda drilled home messages about taking your turn, queuing then merged with ideas of decency, fair play, and democracy.  Despite historical images of the British patiently queuing in hard times, the reality was that there were many arguments and disturbances and frequently the police were called to restore order.

Despite queuing being associated with hardship and difficult times (the dole queues of the 1980s), queuing has remained a Great British past time.  It is often joked that the British will accidentally form a queue or that we join queues without knowing what we are actually queuing for!  There may be some truth in this – again, during the war, rationed items would periodically go on sale and word would quickly spread about the availability of longed for items.  The end result of this would be people joining queues without knowing exactly what they were queuing for but based on the number of people already in the queue …. it must be good!

The nation’s reputation for queuing is highlighted for annual events – from people queuing daily for Wimbledon tickets or for Jubilee concerts.  Images are shown across the world on TV and through the internet of people queuing (sitting on deck chairs) and generally having a grand day out…. in a queue!  The British queue emits an aura of togetherness – again, possibly an echo back to war times.

Our love of queuing does cause issue when we travel though as it seems completely alien to us when other people do not queue.  One example of this would be the “buffet” experience at hotels.  As queue loving Britons, we expect to start at one end of the food and walk in single file around all food items – mentally we automatically create  “food starts here” and “food ends here” labels in our minds.  Should another guest walk straight by the queue to say, the soup bowl, without joining the queue – our tempers start to rise.  It makes no difference to us that no one else was there wanting soup – chances are, there will be scowls and tuts as he should have queued and not “pushed in” – the level of twitching being the same as if he had snatched the ladle out of another’s hand.   Fortunately, hotel buffet restaurants are now becoming so large that this is becoming less of an issue!

So when we become incensed at people who cannot queue – what is it that makes it so annoying to us?  Is it lack of manners or are we really more concerned with protecting our own interests.  Has someone pushed in the queue for the bus and taken the seat you wanted near the window?  What if they take the last roast potato?  Is your anger at the queue jumper arising out of the notion of fair play or  the fear or missing out?

A couple of years ago when all Ryanair planes were boarded en masse by 300 people trying to sit together – boarding the flight had remarkable similarities to a rugby match scrum.  Elbows, walking sticks, and hand luggage were all used as subtle weapons to keep your place in the huddle and push your way on to the plane.  Thankfully those days are pretty much behind us with everyone knowing their seat before the plane is called – the only scrums now are from the desperate rush to ensure your handluggage is on the plane and not in the hold!

When you read articles about 3000 shoppers forcing their way into a new Primark in 2007, despite there being 50 security staff, resulting in people requiring hospital treatment – there is much to be said for an orderly queue – but before fights break out over the last digestive biscuit, I would say – remember where you are and consider whether your actions are appropriate for the circumstances.

The English School of of Manners & Etiquette



Compliments – making people feel good



Compliment (noun) – a polite expression of praise or admiration

Compliments are wonderful at making us feel good and research indicates that receiving a sincere compliment can give us the same internal boost as receiving money. Compliments make people feel happy and can boost work productivity.

Whereas in pre-war society making comments on food, drink, house decoration was considered particularly rude, times have changed and compliments are always welcome – to the point of even now being expected.

However, sincerity is still very important as a shallow compliment hold no weight unless the recipient actually believes what you are saying.  If the food is delicious then do let your host know that their time and effort has been worth it!  On the other hand, to remark that the meat is tough would be extremely rude and not at all welcomed.  Should anything be wrong with the food, it is safe to say that your host already knows this and is feeling awful – best not to add to a bad situation.

When paying compliments to people avoid any personal remarks which may offend, such as health or weight issues, and concentrate more on a specific compliment.  Ladies in particular are far keener to hear that their new hair looks wonderful, or that their new dress is very flattering, rather than a general and unimaginative “you are looking well”. At the same time, men can feel a little sidelined by the attention bestowed upon female partner – compliments on the cut of his suit or noticing that he may be wearing a new tie will never go amiss!

If you have been fortunate enough to be taken out to an event such as a theatre production or a concert – a compliment paying specific attention to an aspect of the performance is far better than it being a general compliment – “the set design was outstanding – did you notice the attention to detail with the room decor…amazing” or “I was astounded by the performance given by the string section – so clear and precise – a beautiful thing to hear”.

In the workplace, compliments are essential for boosting morale and getting the best from your staff.  If a member of staff has done well be sure to let him know that his efforts have been noticed and appreciated.  Far too often, staff go above and beyond what is expected from them – if their efforts go unnoticed, there is a high chance that their performance will slip.  Staff like to feel appreciated and the knowledge that their efforts have been noticed and appreciated will make them strive to achieve more.  Happy staff make for a productive work place.

However, my one main bugbear in the whole of the complimenting scenario is the use of the word “nice”.  With all the rich and wonderful words that the English language has – nice should be avoided at all costs!  Personally, if something is considered nice, then it was barely worth the effort!

The English School of Manners & Etiquette




How to send out the perfect formal invitation



Formal events require formal invitations to be sent out to guests who must then reply.  Invitations should be sent out as early as possible to provide advance warning to guests, particularly those that may not live nearby.

Guests’ names should be handwritten, in ink,  in the top left corner of the invitation.  The exception to this is when formal invitations have been designed for the name to be written in the middle of the card.

Where guests hold titles, no prefixes are used, an any letters after a name should not be included.

Where it is intended that guests bring their children, it is acceptable for “and Family” to be included on the invitation.  However, when guests have adult children still living at home, it would be correct to send separate invitations to adult children rather than include adult children on their parents’ invitation.  It should therefore go without saying that should a grown up child not receive an invitation, the grown up child is not expected to attend the event.

Traditionally, invitations to a married couple are addressed on the envelope to the wife alone, particularly when the invitation is sent to their home address.  However, both names should appear on the invitation itself.    It is acceptable to include extensions on invitations such as “and Partner”.

If there is more than one hostess, all names are placed on after the other on the invitation.  The first name given should be the one to which replies are to be sent.  Any dress code should be stated implicitly on the invitation.  If no alternative address is provided on the invitation, it should be understood that the event will be held at the property of the first named hostess.

Envelopes should be of a size allowing for papers to be folded once or twice.  Business envelopes and “window” envelopes should always be avoided.  Traditionally, envelopes have a gummed diamond-shaped flap, and envelopes should match the writing paper used.  Stamps should be applied toward the right hand corner of the front of the envelope allowing a neat 1.5cm space between the stamp and the edge of the envelope.

Upon acceptance of an invitation, a name invitee should only be replaced by another guest in extreme circumstances and with the hostess’s express permission.  Likewise, should an invitation be accepted by a guest, it would be very rude to withdraw the acceptance without genuine reason.  In circumstances where invitations have been extended to unnamed guests ( e.g. “and Partner”) the reply to the invitation should include the names of all those attending.

Always take into account the importance of the event to the host and treat the host as you would expect to be treated.

The English School of Manners & Etiquette



The bow tie – separating men from boys


Put simply, the bow tie is the pièce de résistance of the formal suit.   Pre tied bows are made with absolute precision with every tie being mass produced and identical.  With mass manufacture, pre tied bows are also somewhat limited in relation to designs and colour.

In contrast, each hand tied bow tie is just very slightly different and allows the wearer to show off personality and flair.  Each knot is different depending on tension and each tie provides the wearer to make a statement!

Unfortunately, the skill of being able to tie a bow tie is becoming lost in the modern world.  For generations, every British school child was able to tie a traditional tie on the basis that most school uniforms had a tie.   Nowadays, many schools have changed over to the casual school polo shirt and those that have stayed with shirts and blazers have adopted to use “clip on” ties which initially horrified me.  However, over time, I have come to think that the clip on tie does have a place in the modern school uniform.  Where schools have changed over, the fashion trends for “fat” ties,  “thin” ties, “big knots”, and “skinny knots”  have gone and each child has a perfectly tied tie showing the identity of their school.

The skill of being able to tie a bow tie is a different kettle of fish.  Apart from my elderly father and his group of friends, I think I would be hard pushed to find anyone under the age of 50 who could confidently tie a bow tie.  The skill of the bow tie has even seemed to have evaded those who have been in the armed forces.   Between 2010 and 2013 the bow tie experienced a surge in popularity as a result of Matt Smith’s reincarnation of Dr Who – a bow tie loving Doctor (although the less said about the accompanying fez – the better!).

So, how is it tied?

Start with the bow tie lying face up. Adjust the bowtie so right side is shorter than the left. The end on the left will be referred to as A and the end on the right will be referred to as B

Move A to the right side, across B.

Bring A under B and up through the neck loop.

At the joint, fold B towards the right and then towards the left to create a the bow shape.

Bring A stra­ight down over the middle of the bow shape that was made with B.

Fold A back towards the chest and pinch the fold.

Push the pinched end (A) through the loop behind B.

Pull on the folded parts of the bow to tighten.

Adjust until balanced on both sides.



The English School of Manners & Etiquette


Good manners and the route to success



According to Tatler magazine your manners can be as important as school grades when looking for employment.  Although it may seem as though good manners are often overlooked in day-to-day life – bad manners are always noticed.  However, it is also important to say that although good manners can appear to go unnoticed they are a sure fire way of gaining popularity and respect. There is no good reason for arrogance and no possible excuse for rudeness.

Today it seems that manners are slipping and people are failing to realise the power that comes with good manners.  Applying simple good manners to your everyday life can result in more success climbing the career ladder, networking, or business building.

Manners are an art form at their most basic level and practicing good manners will go a long way towards your success in life.

Simple good manners to be used daily should include always saying “please” and “thank you”,  remembering a person’s name after having been introduced, expressing your views in a thoughtful manner, as well as holding doors open for open and respecting your elders.  All those little things that you should have been repeatedly told by your mother still do hold value in the modern world.

Table manners should also not be forgotten. The correct use of cutlery and knowing how to behave at a table whether it be with the boss, or with potential clients is an ideal time to build confidence with your superiors and peers rather than leaving the impression that despite your brilliant business acumen, you should not be seen eating in public.  Bad habits such as talking with food in your mouth, eating too quickly, and ignorance as to cutlery use should be left behind and replaced with table etiquette to be proud of.

The English School of Manners and Etiquette


How to achieve the perfect Eldredge Knot


There is nothing quite like a perfectly tied tie to finish off a beautifully cut suit.  A personal favourite of my is the Eldredge knot.  Unusual and quirky and a definite statement in the world of tie knots.  But how is it done and where do you start?

The easiest way to learn is through the diagrams given below



The written instructions are:

  • 1. Start with the wide end of the tie on the left and the small end on the right. The tip of the wide end should rest at the top of your belt buckle. Only move the active (small) end.
  • 2. Small end over the wide end to the left.
  • 3. Under the wide end and to the right.
  • 4. Up to the center, towards neck loop.
  • 5. Through the neck loop and to the left.
  • 6. Across the front, to the right. Then up into the neck loop from underneath.
  • 7. Down to the left and around the back of the wide end to the right. Keep this part loose.
  • 8. Bring it across the front towards the left and through the loop made in the previous step.
  • 9. Pull the small end towards the left to tighten.
  • 10. Up to the center, towards neck loop. Down through the neck loop and to the left.
  • 11. Up to the center, towards neck loop. Down through the neck loop and to the right. Keep this part loose.
  • 12. Across the front towards the left and through the loop made in the previous step.
  • 13. Pull the small end towards the left to tighten.
  • 14. Tuck the rest of the small end behind neck loop on the left side.
  • 15. Look fabulous!

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Where did the handshake come from?


Across the world, the handshake is a well known ritual when hands are grasped and moved in a brief up and down movement.  Using the right hand is considered to be correct etiquette.  Handshaking is most commonly seen in greetings, offering congratulations, expressions of gratitude, making agreements, or the parting of ways.  A handshake conveys trust, respect, equality, and balance.  It can also be the final part of an agreement between parties with any agreement not being final until the two hands are parted.

But when did this ritual begin?  Carvings and ancient text show us that handshaking was practiced in ancient Greece as fat back as the 5th century BC.  The Pergamon Museum in Berlin has a funeral stone from the 5th century BC depicting two soldiers shaking hands.

When it came into everyday practice, nobody knows – it is said that it came into being as a gesture of peace by way of demonstrating that you were not holding a weapon. It is also rumoured that the up and down motion of the handshake was intended to dislodge any weapons that were hiding up a sleeve!  It is also said that the handshake was made popular by the Quakers in the 17th century who thought it a more egalitarian alternative to bowing or tipping a hat.

Across the world many countries have their own customs surrounding the handshake – with the Chinese preferring a weak shake and the English preferring a firm shake.  However, it should also be noted that too firm a grip can also be considered rude!

Whatever the origins, the handshake has become a universal greeting recognised by almost everyone!

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