The definition of a lady.

I haven’t written anything for about a month, and if you received any odd blogs or ones which you know you saw but then vanished, it’s because Joanna was patiently trying to teach a remarkably inept and slow pupil how to post own photograph in blog.    The photograph at the bottom is all my own work – only problem is I have no idea how I did it!    I’ll try to include one over the next few weeks so I get used to the process.

We’ve been in Scotland, visiting on our tour the place of my mother’s birth where we scattered her ashes.    Although I wrote an account of this event, I think this should remain private to ourselves.

We had no instructions from my mother, but I think she would have approved, as in John Galsworthy’s poem:

Scatter my ashes!

Hereby I make it a trust;

I in no grave be confined,

Mingle my dust with the dust,

Give me in fee to the wind!

Scatter my ashes!

In my remarks, however, about my mother, I said how difficult it was to capture her subtle and elusive qualities, and I fell back, unlikely though it seems on the magnificent reply of the future King Edward VII when someone criticised his wife.   “The Princess of Wales,” he reproved them, “is a lady, and therefore she never does anything mean or small.”

I thought that an excellent description of what it is to be a lady.   It’s nothing to do with etiquette, wealth, rank, social category.   Not every Princess of Wales has been a lady.   When my mother taught me the etiquette of middle class life : how to set a table, for example;   in what precedence guests should be seated round a table;  the traditional way to serve a dish – she generally prefaced her remarks by saying, “All this is of little account, for good manners is just about being kind to other people, but it is useful to know what ought to be done, so that you can choose not to do it.”

I think mothers who are bringing up girls should have the motto painted in their halls.   A lady never does anything mean or small,

It is by no means always easy to achieve either.   This past week my eldest daughter and her children have been with us on holiday and one day we did a tour of the charity shops.   I spotted a grey wool jacket which I rather liked, with a fairly good label, but it was quite a small size, so I suggested my eldest grand-daughter try it on.    It suited her (almost everything does) and I bought it for her.   She was delighted with it.   But when we got home and I tried it on, it also fitted and really suited me.    Whereas on her it looked funky with jeans, on me it looked classic with a black dress.   My granddaughter with great generosity offered to surrender it to me , saying I would have more opportunity to wear it, and for one shameful moment I was tempted.   Then I asked myself, how mean and small are you going to be?   A gift once given cannot be rescinded:  it is freely the property of the recipient.   Also, was I going to play David to her Uriah the Hittite?   How many jackets did I own, in comparison with my grand-daughter?   So I suggested she model it with different selections from her wardrobe, recommended another styling of her hair, and left her securely in possession of her jacket.    It is not easy to live up to Queen Alexandra’s ‘never’ lapsing into anything mean or small.

I was saying that my mother’s counsel always was to be kind;  to be generous;   to give the benefit of the doubt;  to forgive (and I with my vengeful anger and long memory had much need of that counsel).   My father was a clever and unusual man.   He understood the kind of person I was, and he advised me how to hone my skills in order to best defend myself and pursue my own interests;  whereas my mother gave me advice on how not to cause too much damage, both intended and collateral,  to other people.

I am grateful to my parents for their thoughtful and tireless efforts to educate us in the widest sense, and it must have seemed (certainly in my case)  at times a thankless  and forlorn cause.   But they persevered, and here I am today, still trying and not always managing, never to do anything mean or small.

2013-08-11 12.11.55 (1)

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

2 Responses to The definition of a lady.

  1. Nan says:

    Anne, I have never known you do anything mean or small!

  2. adhocannie says:

    Maybe I’m just adept at covering my tracks! But thank you for kind thought!

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