Epitome of modern manners

PUBLISHED: 12:20 17 November 2006 | UPDATED: 22:22 28 May 2010

I ve been living dangerously. While out and about in Whittlesey and Wisbech this last week, I ve been looking people in the eye, smiling politely and saying Good morning . One cold day when I was wearing a cap, I touched its peak whenever I passed a lady

I've been living dangerously. While out and about in Whittlesey and Wisbech this last week, I've been looking people in the eye, smiling politely and saying "Good morning".

One cold day when I was wearing a cap, I touched its peak whenever I passed a lady in the street.

Of course, I wasn't so mad as to try this with young people. I'm perfectly aware it would result in a threatening challenge "Oo yew lookin' at?" Or possibly a knife in my stomach.

But even a greeting to people of my own age made them look away and move hurriedly off. I gave up before someone called the police and had me arrested on a charge of harassment.

In the Manchester suburbs (where I grew up), it's normal for strangers to talk to each other. At the bus stop, on a tram or in a queue, everyone starts chatting.

Once, when I was going home by bus, the woman sitting next to me told me the life-history of her womb.

Why are Fenlanders suspicious of strangers? Is it because, for centuries, nobody "from away" ever risked entering this marshy region and because incomers are still a novelty?

Or do Fen folk enjoy appearing unfriendly?

I know every group has its own customs. The Indian language Gujerati doesn't have a word for "please" - so many Indians aren't used to saying please and therefore seem rude to English people. They also ask complete strangers into their homes.

Fenlanders don't appear to do this. So far as I can see, they don't even ask their neighbours in. I got so fed up with one local guy boasting he'd never asked anyone into his house, I asked him if he still had earth floors.

Mind you, I have my own little quirks. I won't reply to texts in which words aren't spelt properly. I won't call 0870 numbers. I begin e-mails as I begin letters ("Dear So-and-so.") and never with the greeting "Hiya". I know it's pompous.

Even so, we might all try adopting a few modern manners. Not texting when you're with someone else and not shouting into mobile phones would be good starting points.

And if you write a rude e-mail, wait till tomorrow before deciding you really want to send it.

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