1 EAGLETON NOTES: Crossed Legs

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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Crossed Legs

I was brought up in a family where good manners and consideration for others were paramount. I never, well hardly ever, put my elbows on the table, I never started eating before everyone was served at table, and so on. I always raised my school cap, and later my hat, to ladies (I usually still do to some extent). On a pavement/sidewalk I walked on the outside of a lady. I certainly never ate my peas off the front of the fork (ie with the tines upwards like a spoon) - not even when no one was looking.

I was encouraged not to cross my legs because it was bad for blood flow.

It was my duty to help infirm people across the road or run errands for elderly neighbours and offer one's seat on the tram or bus to a lady or an elderly person.

In other words I had a 'good upbringing' from that point of view. And, just for the record, in most other ways too I'm fortunate to be able to say.

Early in my working life I did a lot of protocol work so had to be aware of a lot of diplomatic and royal protocol. In those days it seemed really to matter.

At my maternal grandfather's dinner table as a child I never spoke until I was spoken to. In my Mum and Dad's house, however, we were encouraged at mealtimes to say what we had to say. Protocol/ manners were changing and I think that at the tender age of about six I realised that that things were changing and that things would always be changing.

It was when I first went to France that I realised how quaint people thought the way Brits ate their peas was. Now, except where I'm on my best behaviour I eat my peas using the American way and turn my fork over. Sorry. Standards are slipping.

What prompted this post was seeing a headline a few days ago which said that The Duchess of  Sussex had 'disrespected the Queen' by crossing her legs in the Queen's company I realised just how much these things no longer matter to me and, I suspect, to most of the rest of the world. And just how bad some news reporting is. I think my Mum and Dad would agree with me.

By the way there was no disrespect at all by the Duchess. The reason legs are not crossed by Royalty is simply so that photographers don't get photos of their underwear.

42 comments:

  1. I can't figure out what you mean by the peas thing . Anyway, I do wish that such manners were still important. Then respect for others might mean something. Can't get American families to the table at the same time let alone show good manners when they get there. I warned my son once never to come to table with his shirt off. He did it a second time. The next dinner was placed on his bed with napkin and silver and glass of water. That's all it took. Never will I forget that.

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    1. Mrs Thyme (following YP's habit even though I do know your name I'm not sure I've seen it used on a blog) in Britain good manners used to dictate that peas were squashed onto the back of a fork with one's knife and not scooped up with the fork. When I was in California I noticed that many Americans cut their food with the knife and fork and then very often swapped the fork into their other hand and used it to transfer the food from their plate to their mouth. Until our children left home we all ate our dinner together at the table. I made it a rule where possible to be home for dinner even if I had to return to the office thereafter. I have to say that my children had/have very good manners. It pleases me.

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    2. Us too. Big Bear went to work at 4:30 am and would always be home for 6:00 p.m. so as to have dinner with children. Then to the couch to do more work with the kids clambering round him but never trespassing to the pillow that held the Work! We still have some wonderful conversations at the table. No TV, no cell phones, just eating and talk and laughing, etc.

      That is amazing new information about the peas . Never heard of that before. I think my son-in-law just scoops them on the fork . I don't think he squishes them. I will have to ask him about that.

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    3. The reason for squishing them is to stop them rolling around and falling off the fork. It's not easy, though. I still eat meals at the table even when I'm on my own.

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  2. In England in 1985, I remember being told that I ate my food just the way they did on "Dallas"! HA! Yes, I looked just like Sue Ellen too! LOL!
    I saw a headline recently that said "Duchess of Sussex shows her human side". Say what? Didn't know that Harry had married a robot!

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    1. I have to say, Kay, that I think that the Duchess may prove to be a breath of fresh air. She certainly seems to get on well with The Queen.

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    2. Oh yes, I hope that I didn't imply that I didn't like her, just the opposite is true! I just wish that they could be left in peace.

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    3. Kay, I certainly didn't think you implied that you didn't like the Duchess. The very nature of the Royals' jobs is that they re in the public eye. They will never be left in peace.It would be good, though, if we, the public, didn't have an appetite for the sort of things some of our papers publish.

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  3. Don't know whether this is a Scottish thing or a British thing but I was also brought up as in your first 4 paragraphs. I was born in the Broch and didn't reach Australia until in my teens. Now nearly eighty I still walk on the outside of the footpath (to protect the ladies from being splashed by passing cars during wet weather), still open car doors for the ladies, still doff my cap, still thank the cook,

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    1. Thanks for commenting Born and Bred. You say you were born in the Broch (by which I assume you mean Fraserburgh). It's good to here that there are still some of us left. Interestingly I have a very close female friend who goes mad when I change sides as we cross over to different pavements. It's ingrained though so I still do it. She often then walks around me to the other side just to make a point. Equality gone mad?

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  4. Things change and we can't prevent it. Some changes are for the better and some changes not so much.

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    1. Red, we can't prevent it but I try to do my bit to slow it down when I think it's worth it.

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  5. Having attended an ancient school (where such things were of paramount importance) I learned a strange mix of manners and etiquette. Swearing was almost obligatory, but holding your knife like a pencil (no-one did) would have earned you a beating. Anomalies were everywhere, but we learned to be 'young gentlemen'. I think it's served me well, other than being quite critical of those who have no manners at all.

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    1. Cro I have to say that I've never seen anyone hold a knife like a pencil. My parents were born lower middle class so swearing was an absolute no no. I went to a small private Prep School (the only child in our road so to do) and the one thing I did learn was to have the confidence to deal with that when I arrived at grammar school. Like you I abhor lack of manners where lack of consideration for others is involved.

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  6. I still walk on the outside of ladies. It's so my sword hand is free. It's only in the last few years that I suspect a sword may be useful.
    I passed Bell Baxter Academy the other day and can assure you that whether legs were crossed or parallel made no appreciable difference.

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    1. Adrian your comment made me chortle. I think I'll carry my machete when I venture to Glasgow although the gangs there seem to have upped the ante with guns now. I do sometimes wonder when I walk round why skirts and even jeans/trousers seem to have been abandoned by some females now. Body-tights (or whatever they are called) in town are not usually a pretty sight.

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    2. Yes Graham. The ones I saw were the teachers...the male ones....I think.

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  7. My sister and I were born in 1967 and 1968 respectively, so you'd be forgiven to think we grew up with "hippy" parents and had an anti-authoritarian upbringing. Well, we did to an extend; my parents never were hippies, but they did teach us to think for ourselves and not do, say or think something only because everyone else did (or someone told us so).
    On the other hand, both our parents made sure we learned our table manners, including which fork, knife and glass use for what course of a meal, even though at home we mostly had simple meals. Not starting to eat before everyone had been served and not leaving the table until everyone was finished were basics. When we were still little, they explained to us that they wanted us always to feel comfortable, even in the most elite company - should we ever find ourselves in such a situation.

    Yes, etiquette and protocol change; for instance, apparently now it is bad manners to say "Gesundheit!" to a person who sneezes (meaning "Health!" as in "wishing you good health"); instead, the person who has sneezed is supposed to apologize. Some changes make sense, some less so, same as with language evolving all the time. But all these rules (written, spoken and unspoken ones) serve the same purpose; to give us some sense of security and stable framework for social interation in a chaotic world.

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    1. Meike oddly I still say "Gesundheit!" (sic) as a rule when someone sneezes. My Mum did and I copied her. I had no idea that that was now incorrect. Mind you I think that I do say "Excuse me" when I sneeze.

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  8. It appears you were brought up similarly to how my brother and I were, Graham. Old school manners etc. I don't believe they did us any harm.

    I thought I heard something in the background somewhere over the past couple of days about the Duchess of Essex crossing her legs when with the Queen. I'm sure the Queen didn't/doesn't mind. There are always those who like to nit-pick, to criticise. They've little of interest going on in their own lives, I think.

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    1. Lee I'm sure you're right on both issues.

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  9. Yes I was brought up like that too but I'm happy with some of the relaxed rules. We still eat at the table. I think there could be a lot more respect shown in society. Unfortunately there are many adults that don't deserve respect though like pedaphiles, sex offenders, wife beaters etc.

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    1. I often wonder, Diane, whether if people were brought up to respect others the habit might catch on. Unfortunately respect seems in short supply these days.

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  10. Wonderful post. Brings about relaxation in thoughts.
    I will always have that look of horror on my face when folks begin eating before the hosts are seated or at the very least begin eating. That, and talking with food in one's mouth, bug me to no end. Yet, they don't cause enough ruckus in my soul to miss the meal.

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    1. Maywyn,talking with food in one's mouth is a particular dislike of mine.

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  11. I would have thought that one would get more chance of an eyeful of underwear when the legs are uncrossed. Besides, how do we know that The Duchess of Sussex even wears underwear? Apparently, reporters from "The Sun" have yet to see her hanging any knickers on her washing line! You know what these Yanks are like.

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    1. YP, the art is in keeping knees together.

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  12. I have failed to teach my children some things that were like breathing to me: how to set the table comes to mind but I know there are others. Fortunately I run a more "old fashioned" house than those of their peers so they do understand that tables are for eating at and due to my uncharacteristic insistence on place mats or table cloth at all times they will grab a piece of paper rather than put a plate directly on the table

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    1. I imagine, Kylie, that it's more difficult these days to instil 'old fashioned' manners simply because they are seen as just that.

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    2. I just let some things slip because I didn't have the energy. I thought I would get to it some day but I didnt. I also thought that some things would just somehow infuse into them. It was silly because things do infuse into kids but only things we actually do

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  13. Oi eats me peas wif honey.
    Oi done it all me loife.
    It makes the peas taste funny,
    But it keeps'em on me knoife.

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    1. Mrs S. I used it think that it was Spike Milligan who coined this but as it was recited on the February 2, 1944 broadcast of the radio program "It Pays to Be Ignorant." that would appear not to be the case. In fact it would appear that the writer is unknown. And he or she could have been soooo famous.

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    2. I think that is quite possibly the kindest way anyone has ever told me that my sense of humor is older than dirt. 8-)

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    3. Mine too, Mrs, S and I'm proud of it.

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  14. I was taught that the correct way to eat peas off the back of a knife.
    In my grandparents home the adults always had their meal first and we children had to sit back in total silence. Only after all of the adults had completely finished and left the table would we children be allowed at the table to again sit in silence and be served our meal.

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    1. Heron, that's very strict and, dare I say it, rather repressive upbringing.

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  15. When alone, I often eat lunch and supper in front of the TV nowadays (sometimes even with my legs crossed!) I also sometimes use a ... [asking Mr Google] ... 'knork'? I.e. a kind of combination of knife and fork. I inherited five of those from my mum (not sure if there ever was a sixth) and find them very useful. Not for steak or soup, but for pies and other "soft" food, and salads. Moreover, I often use my grandmother's soup plates for salads. (Gives the peas less chance to escape...) I dare not count how many rules of etiquette that might break!

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    1. Monica the knork looks like a good idea (I had a look on Google too). The things we eat these days mean that the 'rules' of table laying and plate/cutlery usage cannot be what it was when I was a youngster. I eat Italian, Indian, Oriental and many other foods for which a large dinner plate is not suitable. I use my soup plates for pasta and risotto dishes amongst other foods. I never use them for soup because it goes cold too quickly so I use deeper bowls for soup.

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  16. How ARE you supposed to eat peas? Sticking them onto the fork with mashed potatoes works, but the MP aren't always there. But I too was brought up to eat them with the fork the "right" way up. Nowadays, I cheat.

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    1. I understand, Frances, that one is supposed to eat peas by squashing them onto the back of the fork with one's knife. I've always found that rather difficult. Apart from that, one of the beauties of peas, particularly for someone like me with reduced ability to taste, is their texture which is ruined when they are squashed before being put in one's mouth.

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  17. And all of that, Graham, is what makes you such perfect company, always the gentleman. I'm afraid I'm far too casual around meal times when I'm on my own but revert to the strict old matriach when dining with my grandchildren. Thankfully they all have good manners.

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    1. Thank you for the compliment, Pauline. I shall pass it on to my Mum and Dad (so to speak).

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