4 MAY 2002, Page 67


Dear Mary.. .

Q. I recently purchased eight of what Beardmore's would have described as 'cabinet-fitting cardframes' but I think of as brass cardholders. These I have attached to the doors of my bedrooms. It was, I think. Victorian/Edwardian country-house practice to label visitors' bedrooms thus. The practice seems to have fallen out of use to the extent that I am unable to get advice as to how such labels should be addressed. If there is a single occupant. I have no trouble. But if two are within, what then? If married, then 'Mr and Mrs John Smith' or merely `Mrs John Smith'? And if unmarried, the female only? (In the case of same-sex occupants. I do put both, I presume safely.) The labelling measure was, I suppose, instituted not merely for the convenience of valets and maids but also to facilitate nocturnal prowls. Of course, Victorian guest-suites (e.g., at Petworth) typically had a bedroom and a dressing-room with a single bed in it, thus perhaps easing the wanderings of insomniacs. It was, understand, a jape to move the cards during the night, thus confusing returning wanderers in the dawn. This is an occupational (or unoccupational?) hazard that so far has not manifested itself here. I merely wish to be helpful, not censorious. Incorrect labelling might cause a restless night.

N. P., Diss, Norfolk

A. It might be simplest for you to follow current country-house practice, which is that the formal naming of occupants has been abandoned, to be replaced with a permanent naming of the room itself: e.g., 'The Blue Room', 'The Goya Room' or, in racing circles, after a celebrated winner. e.g., 'The Park Top Room'. I understand that some of our rock squires have more modern labelling, such as 'The Beckham Roomand The Marco Room'. No doubt you can now point yourself in the right direction using your own heroes to provide inspiration.

Q. I am deeply in love with a woman with whom I come into regular contact through my work. She is one of the greatest beauties of our time and I have nothing going for me on the physical front. What can I do?

L.L., Northallerton, Yorkshire A. Why not take a tip from Lord Chesterfield who advised, 'Those who are in a state of mediocrity are best flattered upon their beauty, or at least their graces, for every woman who is not absolutely ugly thinks herself handsome, but not hearing often that she is so, is the more grateful and the more obliged to the few who tell her so; whereas a decided and conscious beauty looks upon every tribute paid to her beauty only as her due, but wants to shine, and to be considered on the side of her understanding.' In other words, make it clear to her that you consider her to be of giant intellect and she will swiftly make the mental association between you and happiness.

Q. Re: centigrade/fahrenheit problem (20 April). If your correspondent can remember the following, he or she will find the whole 'centigrade' problem easier:

10-50 (10° centigrade = 50° fahrenheit) 16-61 (16' centigrade = 61° fahrenheit) 28-82 (28' centigrade = 82° fahrenheit) SS, Southwark, London SE]

A. Thank you for this mnemonic.