Q. My husband has always worked extremely hard and now does so from home — so I go to great lengths to make nice things for him to eat. Yet he takes five minutes, at most, to eat these elaborate and lovingly prepared dishes, and then immediately goes through to the kitchen and starts washing up — even though that’s now my job. I don’t mind so much at lunchtime but it is dispiriting to see him reverting to schoolboy habits (he was a boarder) at supper when I am looking forward to having a civilised conversation after a day without company. Mary, what should I do?
— A.O., Sittingbourne, Kent
A. Let him know that he must stay at the table for at least 20 minutes and that if he finishes eating in five minutes, he will have to read to you for a further 15 while you eat your supper at a civilised pace. He will soon come to enjoy hearing his own voice.
Q. During the first lockdown, one resident started a WhatsApp group for the very long street where I live. Throughout the lockdowns we have seen younger residents kindly offering to walk dogs and run errands for shielders, exchanged recommendations for plumbers and electricians, and generally helped each other out. There has always been a feeling of good intention. Recently we welcomed a new resident. Now on a daily basis we are inundated with photos of hand-knitted jerseys with high price tags. She makes these from home and obviously believes that the group offers her a selling platform. Worse, she has now offered to walk dogs and go shopping for anyone who is shielding, and has attached a list of (extortionate) charges. Mary, how can we tactfully make her see that this is not in the spirit of what we set out to do?
— P.W., London SW11
A. Put up a post saying you’ve been asked to clarify the uses of the WhatsApp group to someone you know who’s thinking of buying a house in the street. Write: ‘I’ve told her it’s completely non-commercial and for the sole use of street residents who want to help each other out during these challenging times. Does everyone agree?’ Your feedback will ensure the new resident sees there is no scope for marketing in this group.
Q. May I offer a tip to your readers? Due to the current plague, I (like many of my age group) have been unable to see my elderly relatives for more than a year. However we send each other recipes — student specials like avocado pasta from me in return for such delicacies as grilled goats cheese with tomato relish, or red lentil soup. Such delights keep alive family traditions and I would recommend this approach for keeping in touch.
— O.B., Magdalen College, Oxford
A. Thank you for sharing this tip.
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