Dear Mary

Dear Mary, do I have to go to see my friend perform again?

Also, how to tick off litter louts without getting beaten up, and a good way to make use of empty rooms

3 October 2015

8:00 AM

3 October 2015

8:00 AM

Q. A friend of mine is performing a recital in Dublin and has sent round an email advertising the time and date and asking if people will come to hear him play. I’ve already seen him performing once and it was pretty dire the first time round. Now I feel pressure is being put on me to go and see him yet again. As I live in Ireland and he’s given me plenty of notice, I don’t know how I can get out of it but dread the prospect of sitting through another hour of misery. He’s a sweet man and I don’t want to hurt him.
— Name and address withheld

A. Group emails like this are intended more as information than three-line whips to attend. Personally I would just delete it and think no more of it, though if you were being polite, you could write back saying: ‘Loved it when I saw it and know it will be a huge success! Break a leg!’ It is quite common to advertise through group emails. Film-makers often tell their friends that a film they’ve made is on the box, and even Nicky Haslam lets his friends know about his one-man shows through group emails. But there is no obligation to attend.

Q. Like Toby Young (Status Anxiety, 19 September) I am a litter Nazi. I get particularly vexed when I see slobs toss away their drink cans or fast-food detritus even though they are just feet away from a bin. However, to my shame, I never dare intervene. How can I point out the error of their ways without risking being verbally or physically assaulted?
— J.P., Cardiff

A. It is possible to get the message across without risking assault. In the same way as motorists flash each other to indicate an upcoming speed trap, you might pretend to be on the litter lout’s side and hiss in a confidential manner. ‘Litter warden photographing you. Don’t look round. I’d make a run for it before she gives you a spot fine.’ In this way you will have the satisfaction of seeing the offender scurrying off in an undignified manner and knowing they will think twice before repeating the offence.

Q. My husband and I have too big a house for ourselves. Our middle-aged children live abroad but we don’t want lodgers as we are too curmudgeonly and set in our ways to be pleasant to cohabitees. Mary, have you any ideas?
— A. & B.G., Oxford

A. Take a tip from another Spectator reader who lives near St Andrews University with his eighty-something wife and gives undergraduates free accommodation in exchange for their being ‘looked after’. No money should change hands. The deal is that each student will do ten hours’ work a week in the form of cleaning or cooking. Oxford is teeming with students who would not mind if you were pleasant or not as long as they had affordable accommodation.

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