Dear Mary

Dear Mary

23 March 2016

3:00 PM

23 March 2016

3:00 PM

Q. I was interested in the advice given to the niece who owed £30 (12 March). A more direct option, which I have had to use in the past, is: ‘Have you forgotten about the £50 I loaned you?’ The response I received was, ‘I thought it was £30?’ To which I replied: ‘Oh. You hadn’t forgotten then.’
— V.S., Watford, Herts

A. Many thanks for this forthright variant on the earlier solution.


Q. I have from time to time had various discussions with my wife over the sleeping arrangements of my children with their girlfriends and boyfriends when they come home. Needless to say we disagree. I am rather keener on proprieties being observed than she is. That is but nothing, however, compared with vexed question of the sleeping arrangements of my widowed mother and her new ‘(boy)-friend’ (both in their eighties). They are coming to stay shortly. Could you advise on how I approach the delicate question of whether we should be making up one or two bedrooms?
— P.W., Oxford

A. You shouldn’t approach the question at all. It would be undignified for your mother to be interrogated by her own son on such a private matter. Just prepare two bedrooms — as you might easily do for snoring couples in their forties — and, as you show them to the rooms, make no comment or explanation for having done so. Your mother and her boyfriend will in any case be more comfortable in two rooms and it can be left up to them whether they choose to corridor- creep or not.

Q. For the first time in my life my like-minded friends are riven with argument over a voting issue, Brexit. It is impossible to ignore the elephant in the room. How can one best navigate this unwelcome tempest and remain friends both before and, more importantly, after the referendum?
— J.P., Shropshire

A. You might take a tip from one host, a famed facilitator of country-house diplomacy. Following a particularly raucous row over dinner, he has decreed that his guests are welcome to discuss Brexit, although they may only do so after dinner and also only if they go into the garden, like smokers, to do so. He flags up his diktat when guests arrive by indicating a modified ‘Exit’ sign on said garden door showing where the discussions must take place. If and when the dreaded topic comes up, his experience is that guests will happily go outside to thrash the issues through but the discomfort of the chilly nether regions means that they manage to wind up the arguments more swiftly than would be the case were they lolling back on sofas in front of crackling log fires with their glasses being constantly refilled.

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