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(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

Good Manners at the Table

Sit upright at the table. Do not slide down on your spine nor sprawl forward on your elbows. Lay your serviette across your lap; don’t tuck it in your collar.

Don’t fidget with your knife and fork, drum with your fingers, or tap your foot on the floor. Don’t make a noise in eating and drinking or take enormous bites or chew with your mouth open. Don’t bite into a whole slice of bread and butter. Break the bread into suitable pieces for eating and butter each piece separately. Don’t bend over your plate and give the effect of shovelling your food into your mouth, and don’t reach for things.

If soup is being partaken of, dip the edge of the spoon that is farthest from you to fill it, and take the soup from the other side, not from the tip. Don’t tip the plate to get the last spoonful.

Table-talk is a fine art. Because unpleasant thoughts interfere with the enjoyment and digestion of food, disagreeable topics must not be mentioned at table. Table-talk is light, bright and crisp, never very serious, and should be as general as possible.

When you have finished eating, drop your napkin unfolded beside your plate, since at a dinner party a napkin is not supposed to be used again; and lay your knife and fork on your plate, side by side, not crossed.

I recently spent a drunken evening and night with a linguistics professor who informed me that “pure zero-grade English” is spoken not in England, but over in Ohio and specifically in the posh suburbs of Cleveland (e.g. Shaker Heights), Columbus (e.g. Upper Arlington), Dayton (e.g. Oakwood and Kettering), Toledo (e.g. Sylvania and Ottawa Hills) and northern Cincinnati (e.g. West Chester).

I do not recommend spending an evening or night with a linguistics professor.

The actor John Thaw had quite an interesting accent. In the Inspector Morse TV detective series based on Colin Dexter’s novels he adopted a sort of posh accent with something of a drawl and long vowels. I assume this was so the character could seemingly deal with Oxford dons and luminaries as supposed equals. However, an underlying Northern accent kept creeping in. I always thought this was inadvertent and that he simply was unable to sustain the accent he was adopting.

John Thaw is (or was) from the north of England.

(Source: Daily Mirror)

Amy Winehouse’s grieving mum Janis says her daughter was “a physical wreck and completely out of it” the day before she died. Janis spent several hours with her tragic daughter after turning up at her home unannounced. But 27-year-old Amy was in such a bad way that her minders had to help her down the stairs.

This contradicts reports last week that she had beaten her drug and alcohol demons – and adds weight to friends’ fears that she had fallen back into her old ways. At her funeral on Tuesday, her ­devastated dad Mitch said Amy had given up drugs and had been winning her battle with alcohol. But Janis, who had called at her daughter’s home just after midday on Friday, told a friend it seemed she had hit the bottle again.

“Amy was completely out of it,” she said to the friend. “She was in such a state the guys minding her had to go upstairs to get her and help her down the steps. It looked like she had been out drinking the night before and was still drunk or hung over.”

Police are now probing who Amy spent her last hours with and ­whether she was supplied with drugs including ecstasy the night before her body was found at 4 p.m. last Saturday at her home in Camden, North London. It could take up to four weeks for toxicology tests to come back to determine the cause of death.

Janis also told her friend: “I don’t know what happened on that Friday night. I was told she was seen drinking in the bar at the Roundhouse that evening. But how much she drank and what happened next is a mystery. I just think she put her body through too much and it just gave up. If you continue to neglect yourself, there is only so much it can take.”

Amy’s close pal Tom Wright – son of BBC Radio 2 DJ Steve – says friends had turned a blind eye to her using “social drugs” like ecstasy and cannabis on the basis she had quit using crack cocaine and heroin.

Tom, who had not seen Amy for about six months (so really close then), said: “I think maybe some people made a distinction between the hard drugs of her past and the social drugs of the present. I don’t think that’s acceptable but it’s the only explanation I can think of for what happened to her.”

There is not the hundredth part of the wine consumed in this kingdom that there ought to be. Our foggy climate wants help.

(Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey )

Before I was into wine I once was given a bottle of red by my father-in-law, which probably cost around £20 or so, knowing his tastes.

So I decided to sup the lot (slowly not caning it), not knowing any other wines, no comparison to others, well after emptying this bottle I was smashed, badly drunk and I had the worst headache ever. No way could I get rid of this headache, it stuck for a full day, I tried walks in the air, paracetamol, even a glass of beer. I just couldn’t believe that one bottle of wine could be so deadly, when it usually took 10-15 pints of Guinness to have the same effect.

Now, I adore wine and have done so for a number of years. Barely a day passes without something open to accompany dinner. Red is certainly my favourite and stunning quality is in reach from Languedoc-Rousillon for a modest sum, whilst price/quality ratios seem at their best in Chile, Argentina, South Africa.

Bordeaux can be sublime, but generally expensive. There are bargains however, and a decent property such as Château Léoville-Barton can be purchased (a case that is) for under £250. After tax it’ll obviously be more, probably looking at around £25 – £30 per bottle. Expensive, I know, but when compared to the price we pay in the UK for a good meal, theatre tickets, drinks, etc., then it’s relatively cheap I feel. The problem is storage though and few of us have the ideal conditions for storing wine.

As one of our more notorious wine journos has repeatedly said, there is more nonsense said about wine than any other subject – including sex. Just trust your own taste buds, or find a writer that you can trust for recommendations. Reputation can sometimes mean very little in the world of wine, simply an excuse to continually up the price of a product. Or at worst a chance for the more wealthy to engage in snobbery.

I think it was Brent Marris, formerly the owner of the excellent Wither Hills in New Zealand who told the story of being out for dinner with a rather affluent businessman. The chap ordered a bottle of the legendary Pétrus (Bordeaux wine estate of the Pomerol appellation) for which you would expect he paid thousands. Upon receiving the bottle he poured a glass, put the bottle down facing the restaurant for everyone to see then filled the rest of the glass with Coca Cola! Marris asked why, to which the businessman said he can’t stand the taste of the stuff.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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