A long walk passing through the outskirts of Salisbury plain on a track that led through a number of hilly woods; then we passed by two enormous Bronze Age earthworks on Sratchbury Hill with ancient crosshatching like a vast birthday cake. Then down we stumbled through the town of Warminster where, an age ago, I somehow passed the Regular Commission Board despite walking over the lunch of an irascible Marine Major who was as trying to assess my more or less non-existent capacity to work a radio and read a map. I can still see his outraged face and bulging eyes even now in my dreams. How I passed is still a mystery to me. I often wonder about my poor guardsmen, who must have been as astonished as I was that I was in charge and only followed me out of curiosity rather than any real belief that we would end up where we were supposed to be.
Picture the scene, a bustling departure lounge at Tel Aviv airport. The air was suddenly rent by the piercing screams of a three-year-old child lying rigid on the floor, her mouth forming a perfect “O”.
As she hollered, I saw her eyes flickering round the watching bystanders to assess the disruption she was causing. It was clear she was practised and had “form”.
Her mother tried to stem the shouting without success. In fact the noise grew to a crescendo – and then became even worse. A well-meaning stranger tried her best to distract the child, and failed. The youngster then squirmed through the legs of the crowd to the information stall and, like a childish version of Gypsy Rose Lee, started to remove her clothes, item by item, and throw them into the shocked crowd.
The child’s father, a tall bespectacled man, was clearly anxious that the family would miss their flight. Losing patience, he elbowed his way to the front, grabbed the child and attempted to stalk towards the departure gate. The youngster began to Mike Tyson his face with her fists. Then she had a brainwave. Squinting with concentration, she grabbed her dad’s spectacles, twisted them like barley sugar, and hurled them to the ground where they shattered.
The family was in despair. I hunkered down, gathered the fragments and handed them over. I tried to be reassuring:
“I have been where you are today when our eldest daughter behaved exactly like this. But don’t worry, it does gets better… she’s now ordained and the chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford!”
So Lord Carrington has died – one of the last of the “old school” gentlemen who fought in the last war. He was so honourable he failed even to mention in his autobiography that he won an MC in the last war for bravery. How the forest oaks are falling!
A True Gentleman
I was asked recently whether I knew what it takes to be a “gentleman”. If truth be told, I had never given any thought to the topic – perhaps automatically presuming that I am one! But I was told that after responding to some simple statements, the matter could be proven beyond doubt.
They are as follows…
1: Can negotiate an airport with ease.
Well, I can just about manage. The trouble I have is that even when I arrive with plenty of time to spare, I can become so engrossed in a book that I end up nearly missing my flight!
2: Never lets a door slam in someone’s face.
I’m all right with this one. In addition, when I was a child, I was taught always to walk on the outside of a pavement so that a lady would be protected from splashes from a passing car. It was also important to always hold a door open for a lady.
3: Never gives offence by accident.
4: Never talks about Brexit to strangers.
5: Never has more than eight people to dinner.
Other than our sprawling family, I agree.
6: Never asks a woman to take off her shoes when she enters your house, however plush the carpet.
7: Never boasts about the size of his income.
8: Is aware that facial hair is temporary but a tattoo is for life.
As you have probably come to realise, tattoos are one of my pet hates…
9: Possesses a well-made dark suit, a tweed suit and a dinner jacket.
And I can get into all of them, even after 50 years!
10: Turns his mobile off at dinner and does not produce it at mealtimes.
11: Carries his houseguest’s luggage to their room.
Only when the butler is having a day off…
12: Is unafraid to tell the truth.
Yes… although unvarnished truth can end friendships, so we have to be careful with this one. For example, when a lady asks, “Do I look okay in this?”, diplomacy is advised!
13: Arrives five minutes before an agreed time.
Essential! But the trouble is that London is so difficult to navigate that I am either half an hour early or running late.
14: Talks to the lady on both sides at dinner and asks interested questions about their lives.
I always do this, but Jane tell me that it is about as common as hen’s teeth. Men usually bang on about themselves.
15: Never gives “goodie bags!”
What do you take me for?
16: Is polite to waiters.
17: Can undo a bra with one hand.
You might ask the question; I couldn’t possibly comment.
18: Is not a vegetarian.
Rest assured, I am a carnivore and not a herbivore.
19: Can ride a horse.
Jane and I hunted for 30 years.
20: Never kisses and tells.
Difficult to remember, but I hope I never did!
21: Would never own a Chihuahua.
An absurd idea. Imagine a canine rat on one of our walks!
22: Has read all the classics.
Yes, pretty much, but I prefer Daphne du Maurier, Robert Harris and history.
23: Can tie his own bow tie.
What a question. Goes without saying!
24: Never wears sandals.
A ridiculous idea.
25: Wears a rose, not a carnation.
26: Never utters the phrases “take care” (when he is leaving) or “no worries”, and never replies “good” when asked how he is!
Agreed. I understand this rubbish comes from Australia; if that is so, then it can’t travel back quickly enough for me.
26: Never blow-dries his hair.
Well, I think I made the grade. I apologise to the ladies, but I’m sure all male ZANE donors qualify too!
Brilliant as always.
I was waiting for a word on tattoos!
A gentleman uses a butter-knife even when he dines alone!