Stella is very good at shaking hands

I am not sure that many of us gave much thought to curtseying in the last few decades but “Downton Abbey” has rather bought the art of the curtsey back into focus. Who can forget the early scene in the Downton Abbey film when entire the cast were lined up outside the Castle awaiting the arrival of the King and Queen? Of course, we were all waiting to see how Maggie Smiths’ dowager handled the situation. All in all, there was quite a lot of curtseying in Downton Abbey and it all looked very elegant.

It is still traditional to make a curtsey in front of royalty even if the deeper court curtsies are less often on show but, on the whole, it is a form of greeting associated with different times. The word curtsey is apparently derived from the phrase to make a courtesy – and thus takes with it the meaning to be respectful. As a Jane Austen fan I was always fascinated by the subtle meaning in her novels of a bow, a nod or a curtsey; the ability through greeting and body language to indicate delight or displeasure along with other hints about a character’s state of mind.

Towards the end of “Pride and Prejudice, “Elizabeth merely curtseyed to him {Mr Darcy} without saying a word”. In Persuasion we learn “Her eye half met Captain Wentworth’s, a bow, a curtsey passed; she heard his voice; he talked to Mary, said all that was right…”

Excerpts from Finse books about Dogton Abbey

Animals also use behaviour body language and their own form of words to meet and greet. There is tail wagging and circling, playing and the establishment of the social hierarchy in the field of horses just as in our own world.

Nanny is very precious in real life and is the one to focus on

There are many words of greeting in all languages and many studies tell us that the impression of another person is gathered imperceptibly, through words and body language, within the first three minutes of meeting someone. Current forms of greetings tend to be rather more informal than the past with handshakes and kisses or even Eskimo kisses. Of course, we are now all trying to maintain a “social” distance, not to shake hands, and greeting someone has almost become a dance trying to establish how to say hello. It all seems rather strange.

Personally, I am not sure either the elbow bump or ankle bump has much to recommend them. They are not very natural. Undoubtedly curtsies or bows are much more elegant and a polite acknowledgement of the other person and no touching needed. My instinct is to put the palms of my hands together, to dip my head and say “Namaste” in Hindi which many of us reflect after the peace of  yoga, it  is both a greeting and a parting. You could say it without the gesture or not say anything and perform the gesture.

In Hindi, it means ” the divine in me bows to the divine in you”. It has a spiritual meaning and with my thumbs pressed lightly into my sternum against my heart, I feel it helps to alleviate stress and anxiety and gives me focus.

I think it is also an expression of gratitude, for when I have stretched out in yoga and feel fortunate that the sun is shining and the birds are singing. I have  even taken to combining my “Namaste” with a curtsey and, if nothing else, it makes people laugh.