Friday, 11 January 2013

Ps, Qs, Don'ts and Dos

People of my generation probably have vague memories of ancient relatives who clung to the fast-disappearing tail of the expression, “children should be seen and not heard.” I remember being well instructed in dos and don’ts before visiting one of my great-grandmothers. The subsequent trip to sunny Bournemouth dulled somewhat by a cloud of apprehension that had been carefully placed over my head to avert parental embarrassment.

And on top of remembering the dos and don’ts and minding the Ps and Qs, there was the issue of table manners. We were coached obsessively, in basic etiquette. No elbows on the table, don’t speak when your eating, keep still in your chair, no laughing, no reaching across the person next to you, etc, etc. Oh yes, there was also the crime of leaving crossed cutlery on your empty plate. Something I received a clipped ear for at the wedding reception of a great aunt.

Not to be messed with, when armed with a penne blowpipe.

As our daughter was growing up, we held a much more relaxed view, on the understanding that good manners and common courtesies were observed when eating out. Actually, mealtimes are often rated as ‘quality’ family occasions. They can be informative – what have you been up to today? – and instructive in social interaction. Of course mealtimes can be entertaining too.

Last evening, we were minding the grandchildren at teatime. I found myself engaged in an improvised commentary  - funny voices included – as SW struggled to finish the contents of her plate. But she ended up, a keen participant, as hapless pieces of pasta got chewed and swallowed before falling to their fate. The twins looked on, having daubed their faces with sauce to the point where they appeared to be morphing into children of a long lost Amazonian tribe. There was a tap on my arm, and the image was complete as Imogen stared up at me, a penne blowpipe held menacing at her lips.   


  1. NOW there's an image to smile at! I'd much rather sit at the kids table than the stiff old fashioned table of the past!

  2. Never mind the blowpipe - are you sure these weren't the Midwich Cuckoos? Seriously though there must be a compromise surely - good manners can co-exist with funny voices and interesting conversation. How lucky you were to be all seated around the family meal table instead of eating from trays TV dinner-style!

    1. Absolutely, Nell. I think that sitting around a table at mealtime is a great way to enjoy family informality without compromising good manners.

  3. What Little Nell said -- enjoying a meal together without the distraction of TV is one of the best things a family can do.


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