Where’s Les Dawson When You Need Him?

To American readers, Les Dawson was a northern English comedian famous in the 70s whose act mostly consisted of jokes about mothers-in-law.

He would have loved Carolyn Bourne, an English woman who was so upset by her future daughter-in-law’s behavior that she fired off this angry email to the girl after a weekend visit:

From: Carolyn Bourne
Sent: 10 May 2011 06:51
To: Heidi Withers
Subject: Manners


It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.

I am being kept awake – or woken early – by Bomber who is so profoundly upset by your behaviour on your recent visit that he is depressed and anxious.

Unfortunately for Freddie, he has fallen in love with you and Freddie being Freddie, I gather it is not easy to reason with him or yet encourage him to consider how he might be able to help you. It may just be possible to get through to you though. I do hope so. Your behaviour on your visit to Devon during April was staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace. Unfortunately, this was not the first example of bad manners I have experienced from you. If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste. There are plenty of finishing schools around. You would be an ideal candidate for the Ladette to Lady television series. Please, for your own good, for Freddie’s sake and for your future involvement with the Bourne family, do something as soon as possible.

Here are a few examples of your lack of manners:

When you are a guest in another’s house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat – unless you are positively allergic to something.

You do not remark that you do not have enough food.

You do not start before everyone else.

You do not take additional helpings without being invited to by your host.

When a guest in another’s house, you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early – you fall in line with house norms.

You should never ever insult the family you are about to join at any time and most definitely not in public. I gather you passed this off as a joke but the reaction in the pub was one of shock, not laughter.

I have no idea whether you wrote to thank Georgia for the weekend but you should have hand-written a card to her.

You should have hand-written a card to me. You have never written to thank me when you have stayed at Houndspool.

Georgia has quite the most exquisite manners of anyone I have ever come across. You would do well to follow her example.

You regularly draw attention to yourself. Perhaps you should ask yourself why.

It is tragic that you have diabetes. However, you aren’t the only young person in the world who is a diabetic. I know quite a few young people who have this condition, one of whom is getting married in June. I have never heard her discuss her condition. She quietly gets on with it. She doesn’t like being diabetic. Who would? You do not need to regale everyone with the details of your condition or use it as an excuse to draw attention to yourself. It is vulgar.

As a diabetic of long standing you must be acutely aware of the need to prepare yourself for extraordinary eventualities, the walk to Mothecombe beach being an example. You are experienced enough to have prepared yourself appropriately.

No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour.

I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that except that convention is such that one might presume they would have saved over the years for their daughters’ marriages.) If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.

One could be accused of thinking that Heidi Withers must be patting herself on the back for having caught a most eligible young man. I pity Freddie.


This is not a joke apparently. The family in question has refused to comment but they do exist. The girl who received the email sent it to her friends and told them to pass it on – they did and now millions of people have read it.

For me this sums up two sides of British society to a tee! The unbearable snobbery of the well-to-do-but-aspiring-to-be-even-better upper middle class clashing with the complete lack of manners shown by so many younger people of a certain background.

The mother-in-law lives in a lovely big house in a very affluent part of England so obviously has a very elevated sense of her own self-worth. But although her email is horribly rude, I have to admit, she has a point about the castle. Heh.

Makes me very grateful for my own mother-in-law! And also for having some manners 😉

In honor of Carolyn Bourne, here is Les Dawson on his mother-in-law. I don’t know … to me this is still really funny! (Skip to 31 seconds in).


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