Dear Mary

Dear Mary: What can I do to make couples split the bill fairly?

Plus: tree-chopping etiquette; and using a radio to make your husband belt up

21 March 2015

9:00 AM

21 March 2015

9:00 AM

Q. I’m a single bloke now and for various reasons don’t foresee any change to that status. I have moved to Australia and found several convivial people of similar backgrounds who are couples. From time to time we meet up in restaurants but I find there is an expectation that the bill be settled either by dividing it in two or that I should pay in full every other meal. No one ever suggests splitting it three ways.

These are people with means. I dislike broaching the subject of money so the consequence is that I meet up with these friends less often than I would like to.
—Name withheld

A. Bear in mind that an astonishing number of people are hopeless at maths and it could genuinely be that these couples have just not grasped the inequity of such divisions. If you dislike broaching the subject of money then cut the bill in half in the first place by entertaining in your own home. Otherwise enlarge the party so a bill can be divided up by count and someone else will say, for example, ‘It’s $30 a head.’

Q. I have just moved to a rural location with potentially fine views, currently obscured by a row of over-mature Corsican pines. Clearly the desire of the previous incumbents for privacy was greater than their desire to admire the landscape. I understand that birdwatchers also value the pines as a stronghold for nuthatches. Clear-felling these trees would moreover remove the greenery that has been concealing my undistinguished redbrick villa. How can I proceed without ruffling neighbours’ feathers?
—Name and address withheld

A. Traditional wisdom holds that an incomer to a rural setting should live with the existing horticultural set-up for at least a year before making any drastic changes. In the meantime why not raise the crowns of the trees (by removing the lower branches)so that you can glimpse the landscape through them and still enjoy some of the windbreak which may have been the reason they were planted in the first place? If in a year’s time you still want to clear-fell, it will at least be less of a shock to your neighbours.

Q. Having lost my driving licence, I depend on my husband for transport. But in our neck of the woods we can drive for miles without running into a policeman, and my husband leaves putting his seat belt on till the last minute. He knows I am tormented by the beeping noise but claims that, due to a form of selective deafness, he cannot hear it himself. He is also deaf to my pleas to put the belt on.
— J.F., Hay on Wye

A Bring into the car a portable radio which you have already tuned to static. Turn the volume up high. When he asks you to turn it off, agree that you will do so when he puts his seat belt on.

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