Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I avoid hugging at a funeral?

17 July 2021

9:00 AM

17 July 2021

9:00 AM

Q. I have been double-vaccinated but am especially at risk and, since I know of at least four double-vaccinated people who have still caught the virus, am anxious to avoid being infected myself. So far I have confined my socialising to outdoor events — however a funeral for a much-loved great-uncle looms and among those attending will be some Covid deniers who have not been vaccinated. I’ve known these friends all my life and it will be impossible to stop them hugging me or sitting close to me in the church, which is likely to be packed. Not attending is not an option. What should I do?

— L.P., Northants

A. You can go to the funeral but do not take a seat in the church. Instead get there early and stand outside, ideally issuing service sheets and nodding as the other mourners arrive. Wear a Perspex forehead-to-neck shield so no one will be able to kiss you. Leave it until the very last moment to go inside the church, then stand at the back. Research the church — there may be a choir loft where you can sit unmolested. If you have been standing at the back, slip away before the end. If you have been in the choir loft, wait until the crowds have thinned out.

Q. I like my new mother-in-law very much but she is understandably jealous that I have married, in his later life, her adorable only son. Worse — I have taken him away from her to live in another country. She has only just got the internet and so can email him, but when she wants to hear his voice she rings up, using our landline as we have hopeless signal here for mobiles, and I answer it. I try to engage her in conversation but we have nothing in common other than her son and how he is, and that topic tends to be inflammatory. I want to be friends, Mary, so what are your thoughts?

— Name and address withheld

A. You can develop some common ground for pleasant chatter by buying your mother-in-law, depending on her tastes, a subscription to a network channel, for example Netflix or the classical music channel Medici TV. Your husband can talk her through setting one of these up on her computer. By watching the same films or concerts, you will soon have shared references as a basis for discussion and it will keep you off inflammatory conversational threads.

Q. Regarding your remarks on French/English leave (3 July), you may appreciate a variation used by my compatriots, referring to guests who hardly utter a word during a dinner party but start a long and convoluted story at the end at the open door: ‘The English leave without saying goodbye, Hungarians say goodbye without leaving.’

— N.L., London W2

A. Thank you for contributing this interesting nugget.

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