Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I stop friends laughing at me for learning another language?

4 December 2021

9:00 AM

4 December 2021

9:00 AM

Q. We have moved into a terraced house in a seaside town. Our joy is confined, however, by the fact that our next-door neighbour has bought a new car but left his old derelict vehicle on his driveway as well. Although he takes great care never to walk on our garden, often his visitors do not and a muddy track is developing. We have asked about the disposal of the old car but he is a lethargic (although delightful) man. How can I cause the derelict car to disappear without starting a feud?

— L.C., Hastings

A. Contact a local scrap or car dealer and openly explain the position. Would they be interested in purchasing the car — in theory? How much for? They only need the number plate to give a quote. Then ask your lethargic neighbour if he will sell the car to you. If he accepts, give it an evening before you say you have realised it is not fit for your purposes after all but you know of a dealer who is keen to pay the same sum. Can you give the dealer his number?


Q. May I pass on a tip to your readers? The other day I was short of a man for dinner. It was 6.30 p.m. when I thought of someone good but, as he is touchy, I feared he would think it rude if I asked him late. So I texted saying I had spent the day looking for my mobile charger so I could invite him to dinner, but maddeningly had only just found it — I assumed it was too late now? It worked brilliantly. He was free and therefore came happily with his amour-propre intact.

— Name and address withheld

A. Thank you for sharing this useful tip. Never under-estimate how many single men will positively welcome a last-minute invitation to dinner, even without a face-saver. Proust’s Paris featured a ‘pool’ of civilised young men who got dressed in black tie every night in hopeful anticipation of being required should a hostess suddenly find herself with a table for the unlucky number of 13. These young men, known as quatorzièmes, were only too pleased to step in at the last minute.

Q. We are going away next year and I’m trying to learn the rudiments of the language of the country that we are visiting (Korea). It’s a different alphabet and the grammar and pronunciation are tricky but nonetheless when I tell people about this project they burst out laughing, which I find very annoying. Mary, how should I respond to this patronising reaction?

— S.T., Chirton, Wiltshire

A. They are likely to be envious. Your efforts may have reminded them that on their death beds, among the bucket lists of other regrets, two out of three adults say they wish they had learned a new language or at least kept up with the one they learned at school. Laugh along with them — as you will have the last laugh.

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