Q. We recently welcomed an 18-year-old au pair into our young family, and I’m pleased that she has settled in quickly and feels comfortable around us. However, last Saturday she walked into the kitchen for breakfast wearing the tiniest pair of pyjama shorts I’ve ever seen — almost half her bottom was on display. My husband was quite bewildered and says I must ask her to wear something with more coverage. She is quite a proud person and I don’t want to create any bad vibes, and after all, Saturdays are her day off, so I feel she is free to do as she likes. But am I being too lenient? How should I address this with her?
— S.C., Austria
A. Unfortunately women below a certain age regard under-dressing as an equality issue and have had a compassion bypass regarding the lust they might excite. Also there is little you can say without implicating your husband as a pervert. Claim to have had your kitchen chairs polished or varnished in something which has triggered rashes in other bare-legged visitors and hand her a sarong to wear while breakfasting.
Q. I am a Tibetan spaniel owner. While out recently without my dog, I spotted the doppelganger of my previous bitch who died four years ago. I was struck with nostalgia and immediately accosted the owner. He eyed me with suspicion until I said: ‘Is that a Tibetan spaniel?’ At this point we launched into an enthusiastic exchange on the superiority of the breed. After I had taken some snaps, I was desperate to say: ‘What’s your name and address? Our dogs must meet and bond.’ But I feared he might find this slightly odd — or, worse, might presume I fancied him. What should I have done, Mary ?
— F.W., London W11
A. Your caution is well reasoned since dogs are often used as pretexts for strangers to make overtures to the owners. Next
time, hand over your business card or ping him a picture of your own Tibetan suggesting the two meet. Tibetan spaniels are known to be highly ‘breedist’ and much prefer interaction with their own kind, so it would have been in this man’s interest to arrange a date for the dogs.
Q. Mary, I will quickly become bored by pasta. Do you have any wartime recipes?
— N.P., Prestbury
A. Yes. Buy a sack of potatoes and some tins of sardines in olive oil. For each person boil two tennis ball-sized potatoes and mash
into them one 120g tin of sardines (drained). You can season and eat the mixture as it is, or break an egg into it, coat it in flour and fry for a crispy texture. A sardine fishcake is rarely presented but it compares favourably with the salmon variety. You can add chilli flakes, if you have them, if your palate has been jaded by excess over the years of plenty./>
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