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A pilgrims’ trail 31 The tennis coach was a dashing young man, with a smattering of American experience, and the classes were great fun. Perhaps because he was younger than the rest of us, there was little formal language used when addressing him; indeed, the tennis court seemed to bring out the most informal communication I had heard amongst this group of well-heeled women. The coach, too, adopted a fairly intimate style of address, using endings usually reserved for children, but attaching them to shortened surnames rather than given ones.

On another investigative bike ride, I ventured to cycle by and have a look at the site of this violent incident. The house was built for defence – a large white construction, with no windows on the outside, and cameras positioned at the outer corner pointing down each of the approaching streets. The whole edifice was bolstered by a sloping foundation of large, shaped stones, of a variety normally only seen at castles. A large, impressive gate stood slightly ajar, revealing an inner courtyard, where a couple of expensive black cars were being polished by a burly man.

It was a good way to get to know the members of this housewifely group, and, despite the lack of formal language to observe, I felt that my work was progressing. Actually, the language did become significant in the long-term view of things, because the occasions for informality are of course to be offset against and compared with occasions for formality, and it was eventually possible to make suggestions about why tennis should be seen as informal in this way. In the meantime, I decided to seek out one or two more formal classes to join because teacher/pupil relations are often given as examples for polite exchanges in textbooks and manuals, and I wanted to find some cases to observe.

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