IT must be an age thing. I was brought up to always say “please” and “thank you.”

That lesson has lived with me from my early years and I did my best, with my wife’s help, to instil the same basic decency in my own, now grown-up, children. By and large, I think we did a reasonable job; our children are generally well-mannered and polite. But it’s their children I fear for. Not because I think they will fail to teach them the same lessons but because society seems to expect it less and less.

It was obvious when my children brought home schoolfriends that not all of them had had the same parental instruction or, at least, been willing to apply it. Handing out slices of pizza or soft drinks, for instance, would usually elicit “thank yous” from most of them but by no means all.

To a parent of my age, it just seems rude. They may not necessarily be ungrateful but they simply don’t see or understand the need to express any recognition that another individual has gone out of his or her way to benefit them.

I blame much of it on peer pressure; it has, in many youthful social circles, become “uncool” (yes, I realise that's also an old-fashioned expression!) to even acknowledge the basic services a parent supplies for his or her child. So what if your mum has spent hours cooking your dinner or ironing your clothes – it’s her job, isn’t it?

I have heard well-fed and properly nurtured, well-to-do children younger than 10 (not mine, I hasten to add!) say to their mum, with not a hint of humour: “You HAVE to feed me – I’ll report you to Childline for abuse if you don’t.”

And if today’s children don’t even say “thanks” to the people they care about most – their mates – what hope is there for the future of social interaction? What prompted the question was the publication of a new report, in Royal Society Open Science, of a study which looked at more than 1,000 examples of how gratitude is expressed in informal, everyday conversations between friends, families and neighbours in eight different languages. The researchers recorded casual, everyday conversations in people’s homes or in community settings and they interpreted “thank yous” in a wide array of phrases, including expressions such as “sweet” and “good job.” They found that people almost always responded positively to small requests for help, such as passing condiments, but were rarely rewarded with gratitude in response. In many of the languages, they were thanked just once in every 50 occasions.

You and I might put that down to simple bad manners but the scientists say it actually means that people take it for granted they will co-operate with each other and, therefore, the words “thank you” are no longer needed. “Our findings indicate a widespread assumption that saying ‘thank you’ is not necessary in the everyday contexts of our lives,” said Professor Nick Enfield, from the University of Sydney, who led the research.

“Some might interpret this as a crisis of rudeness, that we are polite in public but have no manners in our own homes. But that is the wrong interpretation. Instead, it demonstrates that humans have an unspoken understanding we will co-operate with each other.” As it happens, English speakers expressed gratitude more than most – but, even then, only in 14.5 per cent of recorded conversations.

To my mind, though, there's no excuse for failing to say “thank you.” I honestly believe we should not take other people for granted in any context, no matter how closely related they might be.

So thank you, Professor Enfield, for your research but I, for one, will stick to my old-fashioned expectation of common decency in all aspects of everyday life.

* Marketing exercise to help protect against tradition

IT’S great to see Bingley Town Council taking a new approach to bringing markets to its splendid main square despite their slightly chequered experience with them in recent years.

Bingley’s right to hold a market was granted by King John in a charter in 1212 and with a modern population of more than 18,000 people it should easily be able to maintain that tradition. The new summer markets, complete with entertainment, will take place on Saturdays; June 2, July 7, August 4 and October 6. Let’s hope they get the support they deserve.

Water way to avoid the stress of watching TV’s biggest ‘hits’

ON THE subject of Bingley, it’s recent Canal Festival was a huge success, despite some well-publicised, major televised events.

The weather helped, of course, but a great deal of effort has gone into developing the event and it has quickly become an important means of bringing visitors to the town and its shops.

Five Rise and Three Rise locks are unique and fascinating attractions and the whole event could well be helped by waterways visitors’ feelings of well-being and “higher life satisfaction,” as identified in a new report for the Canal & River Trust. Boss Richard Parry says: “Our waterways are an amazing historic legacy for us all and it is exhilarating to find that they can play such an important new role in our lives.”

They certainly do a lot more for me than either Royal weddings or Cup Finals…