25 SEPTEMBER 1993, Page 28

Sonnet of a Gentleman

How often have I courteously uncrossed My legs to let someone in a tram pass by, Only to kick him on the shins, thus lost The whole point of the gesture. Some of my Best efforts go for nothing. . . In a louts' age A gentleman seems an anomaly, Apt to incur bewilderment, even rage, When his decency goes wrong.

But truthfully, To be gracious, charming, courtly, open doors For ladies, raise one's hat, use fountain-pens Rather than biros — all this is a cause Requiring no apologia or defence, And in my heart of hearts I know I am Helpful, and needed; like the city tram.

Alan Brownjohn