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MANNERS MAKETH MAN

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Michael Walsh

Where and when appropriate I greet a lady by the simple courtesy of raising the back of her hand near my lips. For many, it is a first experience that has so far brought pleasure. I wonder how many women have had a hat raised in greeting or how many ladies have seen men rising from their seats on their entering a room.

Small courtesies were drummed into the minds of small boys and they have stuck with me for life.  On alighting from a bus in Riga, I was followed by an elderly lady. Unsteady on her feet the old dear held a heavy shopping bag in each hand.

It grieves me to say that I was the only male who paused to take her bag and help her to the kerb. That was eight years ago and the elderly lady’s smile of gratitude has never been forgotten.

These are the little things that once counted for so much in people’s lives. Talking of bus passenger experiences, I recall my mum giving me an elbow in the ribs. Such was the body language to remind me that the older person standing nearby would appreciate mine.

At the time we became work colleagues Jayne was a charming mum in her early thirties. As we closed the shop one evening, I helped Jayne with her coat. My assistant coloured and later told me that she had never had anyone help her with her coat or open a car door for her.

Another small courtesy was – and still is to hold the door open to allow passage to anyone, male or female. Most but not all appreciate the small gesture.

Good manners were not a passing phase peculiar to recent ages. In fact, today is one of the brief interludes of history in which politeness is absent.  The term, ‘Manners maketh man’ was coined by William of Wykeham (1324 – 1404) and his reminder has been faithfully followed through the ages.

Much the same can be said of attire and general appearance. I doubt if there is any period of history when there was so little difference between the genders. This tells in dress code, mannerisms, appearance, language, and manners or absence of whatever once separated the sexes.

That is a sad reflection on the world today and explains much.  If like Jayne and the elderly lady on the Latvian bus you have never experienced life’s small courtesies you sadly don’t know what you are missing, which is sadness too.

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