Dear Mary

Dear Mary: why have all my friends given me scented candles?

Plus: an unexpected invoice; visitors who fall asleep in the car

21 May 2016

9:00 AM

21 May 2016

9:00 AM

Q. My super successful son kindly gave a birthday dinner party for me in a glamorous London club. I have never used scented candles — I worry about the fire risk and, more recently, about the alleged particulates. No scent beats fresh air. So what should I make of the fact that when I unwrapped my presents the following morning, I found that 20 out of the 50 were scented candles? I am not the sort of person who takes offence, but are my friends trying to tell me something?
— Name and address withheld

A. Since you don’t have to rip off the packaging in front of the donor, candles are perfect for regifting. Many women stockpile them as back-up presents. No doubt your friends intended to shop for something more bespoke but found on the day of your dinner that they had no time. Better to bring a scented candle than to arrive empty-handed, they will have thought. (Some candles are worth £50.) Rest assured that they were not trying to tell you something. There is no need to take offence or be disappointed, since you can regift them yourself. Each candle will eventually end up with a genuinely grateful recipient.

Q. A friend has asked me to write on his behalf. He recently held a large party at his seaside house on the south coast. A mutual close friend, who also attended, and who has a thriving marquee and yurt business, said: ‘I’ll let you have a tent.’ To my friend’s surprise, a week later he received an invoice for £150 plus £50 for alleged damage, plus VAT. Also a footnote that ‘this is a 50 per cent discount to normal rate’.
— M.N., London SW7

A. He should ignore the bill but immediately write an effusive letter to the friend, thanking him for so kindly lending one of his tents for the party and enclosing £50 to put towards his office Christmas party.

Q. We live in a delightful part of Scotland, and many of our ageing friends seek invitations. While apparently much excited by the prospect of drives through the splendid countryside, they all too often fall asleep before the high points are reached. How can we be sure they do not miss the whole point of the excursion?
— Name and address withheld

A. Lunch will act as a stupefacient to anyone being rocked in a car, so make morning excursions while the guests are caffeine-fuelled. Pretend to be unsure of the route and require your front-seat passenger to navigate. Give a back-seat passenger the task of reading aloud from a guidebook as you pass the splendours.

Q. Re: the letter from M.K. in London regarding the wearing of hearing aids, my mother had the perfect solution. She told my father that if he did not wear his hearing aids, she would not wear her false teeth. Worked a treat!
— S.D., Warminster

A. Thank you for sharing this tip.

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