At a dinner party in Dublin last week – silver,cut glass and sparkling conversation – I couldn’t help noticing that the central candle in one of the candelabras was leaning to one side. Should I straighten it or ignore it?
“I wouldn’t risk it,” was the advice of the guest on my right. “it might cause offence.” As he was a racing man who could weigh up the odds, I took his advice and tried to ignore the Pisa-like candle.
But I couldn’t help glancing at it from time to time, just to see and guiltily explained to the racing man about conditioning: ” My mother had me trained to straighten out things – coverlets on the bed, cushions on the sofa, curtains drawn badly.
” Look,” she’d say, pointing at a thread hanging down from a badly sewn seam or a pillow not lying square on the bed: ” Does that not hurt your eyes?”
And so I spent the evening trying not to let the candle hurt my eyes and was glad that I did for our host made a short speech welcoming us and remarking that one of the joys of being a diplomat was being able to give these sort of what he called friendship dinners.
He went on to say that the two things he was warned about on becoming a diplomat were money and protocol.
Leaning forward to straighten the candle, possibly spilling a glass of red wine en route, would surely have offended the diplomat or his spouse and would certainly have got one of the three waiters into trouble.
When in doubt, sit tight and don’t worry about what your mother might have said.