Manners, punctuality and being kind are my modern-day mantras

PUBLISHED: 17:12 01 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:12 01 October 2019

Respect and kindness are vital components of everday life, says James Marston

Respect and kindness are vital components of everday life, says James Marston


Possibly because of his new role in the church, maybe because he’s a decent chap but James Marston says he’s never been keener to observe punctuality and good manners

On December 16 I'm having cream of tomato soup, roast turkey and Christmas pudding for my luncheon.

I know this because this last week I have been - in management speak - "populating" my Christmas diary. As regular readers will know I work as an assistant curate in east Suffolk - Aldeburgh and some villages nearby to be precise - and this last week we decided the details our Christmas clergy rota The shops are already gearing up, I might not like the fact that Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier but there it is.

Having said that I don't mind planning ahead, it makes me feel less anxious if I have an idea of what the future might look like. I'm not so good when it comes to "seeing what happens" or "going with the flow". This instinct to plan and be prepared comes not from my days in the Scouts - I've never much liked camping - but, I think, from my school days, during which, we were from quite a young age, expected to be responsible for our own timetables and making sure we got to places on time.

The unexpected of course, is never far away, but even now 
I'm invariably early for appointments, invariably find it annoying if people waltz in late because they had to get a takeaway coffee, and invariably find it difficult to understand why people seem to think it's funny that they can't get anywhere on time. Indeed, when at my most militant I don't really accept people are ever "running late" - what they mean is they are rude and selfish and disrespectful - they are basically saying they have more important things to do than you.

That doesn't mean I'm never late - no one always practices what they preach - but I hope I am always apologetic and embarrassed if I am.

Punctuality - the politeness of kings - seems to be socially acceptable these days. Technology hasn't helped and it seems that simply texting or emailing someone to say you are going to be late somehow means you no longer are. This is, although I am guilty of it myself, bunkum, at least in my book.

In parliament these last few months we have seen, it seems to me, an utter breakdown of manners, on all political sides, fill our TV screens night after night. The political class - the lot of them - are missing the wider point that many of us want them to work together on big issues rather than score petty points. Indeed I found it difficult not to agree with the person who suggested they should be locked into the House of Commons until they find a solution rather like some papal conclave, in the hope that it might focus their blinkered minds.

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However, I suppose that the fear of inciting hatred - a rather difficult law to work out if you ask me - stops me from saying too much, and it seems the politicians are doing that quite successfully to themselves anyway.

Nonetheless, I'm digressing, what I wanted to say this week
 is that punctuality is a sign 
of basic respect and that 
basic respect is best proffered by the employment of basic manners.

Time and time again I hear people in restaurants say things like "I'll take the….." without a please or a thank you. Take? What's wrong with "I'd like"? Or "May I have"?

Surely its basic manners to send a thank you card for a gift or in response to hospitality?

Surely its basic manners to clean up after oneself?

Of course, it's easy to blame the younger generations for a lack of etiquette and manners but as someone once said: "The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any."

Surely its basic manners - Facebook users beware - not to boast about holidays, purchases, money spent…

Surely its basic manners to open a door for a woman - as a sign of one's respect for her.

Surely its basic manners not to shout and scream at one another in political debate.

While its often good manners to put up with someone else's bad manners, I do think it's high time manners were given the prominence in our interactions they once had - and I can't help thinking better manners, actually showing respect for one another, might be a good way to start bridging, among other things, the political divide.

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