Dear Mary

How should you deal with a competitive best friend?

11 August 2018

9:00 AM

11 August 2018

9:00 AM

Q. Good friends, who moved away from our city suburb a couple of years ago, retain a pied-à-terre the better to pursue their sensitive professional lives. They are, however, not entitled to parking permits for themselves or their morning visitors, so for some time we have been passing on to them extra parking permits. When they come round to pick up (and pay for) these, we all enjoy a quick glass of wine together. They are intelligent and upstanding and we like them and can’t believe that they can be so insensitive as not to suggest other meetings where we could spend more time together.
— Name withheld, London

A. Such pied-à-terre owners must socialise with intent when in town, prioritising first business contacts, next pushy people. Their new definition of a real friend is likely to be someone they rarely see. Their brusqueness with you is therefore a compliment. Be frank about your affection and suggest you give a dinner for them and a couple of others they need to work off while they are in London. At least then you can all have protracted access to each other.

Q. My husband and his best friend first met at school nearly 50 years ago and have always had a competitive relationship. Bongo now lives in Kenya and consequently is unusually fit for his age. Our problem is that when he comes to stay with us in this country, he insists on challenging my husband by making him take part in fairly dangerous sports — hang gliding, mountain climbing etc. My husband would prefer to see his old friend without having to take part in extreme sports just so that Bongo can ‘win’. Another visit looms. What do you suggest?
— M.W., Beaumaris, Anglesey

A. You might distract Bongo by presenting some harmless challenges as soon as he arrives. Were you, for example, to test both men’s blood pressure readings and calculate their Body Mass Indexes, Bongo would be bound to ‘win’. Then suggest both men go out to a curry house and undergo a real test of manhood by seeing which of them can stomach the hottest curry on offer (usually a lobster phaal). Obviously your husband should lose again. After this, Bongo may be happy to sit back and enjoy his old friend’s company.

Q. My dusting lady appears jauntily in the mornings and discards her trainers, come rain or shine. The smell of the feet and the trainers make my eyes water. I don’t want to lose her but how can I persuade her not to pad about in smelly bare feet?
— J.T., Oxfordshire

A. Leave Athletes’ Foot medication on display and ‘confess’ to your cleaner that you suffer from chronic recurrences. Offer her a pair of attractive new socks so she does not catch it. You will have already treated these with Odour Eaters shoe spray, which you should also spray into the trainers while her back is turned.

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