Her name was Miss Abigail Porter and she was recruited to the Colonies during the Second World War, to teach etiquette to the daughters of gentry.
Never without a hat carefully affixed with a mother of pearl hatpin, which protected her against the rigours of the African Sun, Miss Porter was engaged as the governess for the beautiful titian haired Morton Sisters at Gaths Mine, Mashaba.
Corynne and Muriel were home schooled and were being prepared for their "coming out" as young ladies, a difficult task in a barbaric land, and Miss Porter was engaged to ensure that they learnt all they could about the niceties of life!! Usually young ladies were despatched to finishing schools in Switzerland, but times were not easy during the war and the sisters Morton had to settle for their etiquette preparation from their governess Miss Porter who also taught them French and Latin!
Many hours were spent walking painfully around the drawing room with a set of books placed on the head. Head up, chin up, mouth engaged in a pleasant smile. Bottoms in and stomachs taut!! It made for elegant deportment and demeanor and an easy style much necessary in the right society.
Many more tedious hours were spent in practicing a careful handwriting script, learning the coquettish uses of the lace edged handkerchief, and studying music and the arts. Serious attention was paid to the use of finger bowls, the correct way to hold a teacup, and the tricky art of the cake fork etc.!!
But standards have dropped over the years sadly and as much as Mother Dear tried her hardest to pass on these gracious refinements to my brother and I she had a great deal of difficulty in educating her tempestuous offspring! And after the departure of Miss Porter from the colonies, there was neither the time nor the inclination to make use of much of these almost redundant manners!
However one thing thankfully stuck in my head and that was the lesson given to us on how to keep ones elbows tucked in while eating. Mother Dear would place her best Royal Doulton side plates, one under each elbow while we wrestled with our knifes and forks, and thus avoided the terribly offensive habit of "flying with our elbows" whilst eating.
I never realised just how important this little antediluvian piece of etiquette would become until we started flying regularly to visit the offspring.
Now HeeHoo has exceptionally broad shoulders and this makes my life seriously uncomfortable on a plane ! Half of my seat is occupied by his arm and elbow and eating time becomes a formidable task. Unless we are clever enough to book the two seats at the back near the loo, HeeHoo likes the aisle seat with means I am stuck in the middle between him and what is usually a giant sized person on my other side.
Now unless one eats in relays, someone has to suffer and it is usually ME!!
Being 'liddle' I can usually slide right down under their armpits but it is not first prize obviously, and then, using Mothers careful guidance with the "flying" lessons and the Royal Doulton, I can usually manage to get fork to mouth every so often!!
Thank you Miss Porter for those lessons in manners so indelibly imprinted on our minds! I do sincerely hope she does not see us from up there on her little cloud, eating with plastic knives and forks while practicing what she preached!!