Q. Is there a tactful way to wind up a Zoom call when one of you has more time on their hands than the other? A friend, living alone in London, Zooms me on a regular basis. He is immensely good value — and as a successful stage actor is clearly missing the audience he would have were it not for lockdown. Much as I would love to be entertained by him for lengthy periods, I need to get things done while the children are at school. How can I halt his flow without wounding his ego?
— M.N., Tetbury, Glos
A. With a small amount of preparation you can enjoy this actor’s company without fretting about your chores. Answer the Zoom call while already at an ironing board. Ask if he minds if you start wading through a pile of laundry while you are chatting. Give him your full attention as you work on the mindless task. You will find that when you unplug the iron and fold up the board, but remain standing as though waiting for invisible fellow audience members to shuffle from their seats, he will have the subconscious sensation that his performance has come to a natural end and will wind things up himself.
Q. Mary, could you clarify the correct form of how the payee is addressed on a cheque? I never write in the title, just their full name — Mary Brown — most definitely not Mr, Doctor, Sir or Lord etc. I have been reading The Spectator for years (I am 88 years old) and particularly enjoy and learn from your column.
— L.N., London W2
A. Many thanks for your compliment. I have spoken to my financial consultant who replies: ‘It is not a question of gratifying the payee, but of satisfying the bank. The key thing is for the bank to honour the cheque so whatever you do, you want to be sure of this. A cheque made payable to Horatio Nelson would no doubt have been honoured just as would one made out to Admiral Lord Nelson. Likewise the Iron Duke would have been sniffy about a cheque made out to Arthur Wellington, but he would have got his money.’
Q. Regarding the protocol for the washing and drying of ‘smalls’ (Dear Mary, 9 July): some years ago, like Princess Grace of Monaco, my sister-in-law, when posted to Lagos with her husband, did not wish to hand over her undergarments to the houseboy for washing, preferring to keep such matters private. Her husband protested that she must conform with tradition, otherwise the houseboy and the rest of the household would assume she didn’t wear any. She complied.
— B.N.,Cwm Pennant, Gwynedd
A. Thank you for refreshing this topic. One reader, invited to a private yacht in the Caribbean, learned that laundry would be dried on a makeshift washing line on its deck. She sidestepped the privacy intrusion by packing disposable paper pants.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10