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Rules for a gentleman? Be yourself instead

DO YOU consider yourself a gentleman?

No, not you, madam. Though I will own you have the moustache for it. The question is addressed to men, though we can legitimately ask of the burdz foregathered here: do you call yourself a lady, hen, ken?

No gentleman refers to a lady as "hen", therefore I include myself out of the "gentleman" ascription. One of nature's gentleman perhaps - I'm tolerably polite and like saying "How's it gaun, big man?" to trees.

But no gentleman ever refers to himself as a gentleman, and I'm not one of society's gentlemen either, at least as defined by Country Life, which my butler tells me is a magazine.

Said magazine is launching its inaugural Gentleman of the Year Award and, in a vulgar attempt to attract attention, has drawn up a hopefully comical list of rules for the modern G-man.

The dos include making love on your elbows, eating anything that's put in front of you, and never getting disorderly when drunk (which is permitted occasionally). While approving the second and third of these, I propose ignoring the first, as it's too technical for me. I've enough trouble remembering where the other bits go, without worrying about the elbows.

Other dos for gentlemen include being at ease in any situation (and putting others at their ease); punctuality; dressing to suit the occasion; considering others' financial situation when booking restaurants or group holidays; showing interest in others instead of talking about yourself; making your word your bond; and being able to talk to anyone.

These are all good things and, apart from the financial snootery and perhaps dressing to suit the occasion, are possible for anyone regardless of class. That's nice, as a gentleman never says.

The real problems begin when we come to the don'ts. Many of you will storm out in a huff when you hear them. Here's one for a start: don't own a cat.

How so? I don't know. I suppose it's a bit holey pullover, even eccentric. Most people who own cats talk to them, which is absurd, but not necessarily ungentlemanly. Perhaps it's because cats poo in neighbours' gardens and mangle the local wildlife — hardly things a gentleman would encourage.

Or it could be just because cats aren't dogs which, along with horses, are favoured creatures of the Country Life set, with their medieval overtones of hunting and, er, mangling the local wildlife.

Less controversially, we can all agree that drinking Malibu (sorry, Auntie Jessie), buying fuchsia trousers, and having a speedboat are out. Cheap, shallow and crass, d'you see?

Wearing Lycra is arguably a correct proscription, particularly when writ large as in Dafydd, the only cyclist in the village. But tweeting, writing with a Biro, and wearing a pre-tied bow-tie?

Wearing any kind of bow-tie should be illegal, and I think you'll find that most gentlemen lose their pens every five minutes, so the humble Biro bought in bulk is inescapable. As for tweeting, I don't do it myself, as I deem it uncouth to inflict my opinion on others.

Something bothering me about that last sentence. Can't put my finger on it. Moving swiftly on, what's wrong with finishing your food before everyone else? Somebody's got to do it, and surely it's a compliment to the host.

So it continues (no putting products in your hair, forgetting your wristwatch or planting gladioli). So much for rules.

Surely there's a certain je-ne-ken-quoi about a gentleman? Something ineffable. Agreed, some rules are necessary. No gentleman allows his bottom to blow a raspberry in public. Nor even talks of such things.

But merely avoiding such behaviour doesn't make you a gentleman. Then there's nationality. The Londonshire papers linked the gentleman concept with being English, arguably with good reason.

You hear of Highland gentlemen, of course, but we can all picture them in their heedrum-infused habiliments, opening their sweaty sporrans to reveal the big blue word: "No."

We know the type. But no gentleman lets another rule his affairs. It is unmanly. There's the thing: be a man. Don't be a gentleman. Be yourself. And yes, that includes you, madam. Just hide the cat, will you?

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