Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I get my cleaner to stop complaining?

15 January 2022

9:00 AM

15 January 2022

9:00 AM

Q. My cleaner is industrious and trustworthy but she doesn’t have many people to talk to and evidently looks forward to her shifts as social occasions. She loves having a captive audience (my brother and I are currently WFH) and her conversation consists mainly of complaints, so it’s never a fun chat. It’s generally a bit of a downer and lending a sympathetic ear is becoming rather exhausting. I always end up going for a walk during her shift, even though it doesn’t suit me. It has taken me so long to find a half-decent cleaner that I don’t want to let her go. Mary, what should I do?

— R.W., London SW7

A. Turn your cleaner’s presence to your advantage. Knowing she will pounce if you have a lapse of concentration should help you keep your noses to the grindstone. Meanwhile, it would be humane to hear her out for at least some of her shift. Take it in turns to give her your full attention for one ten-minute block, listening properly throughout, then jumping in response to a reminder alarm you have set on your telephone. Explain that you must go back to work as you have to tackle something urgently. If she hovers, suggest you talk again in an hour.


Q. At the end of our driveway is a narrow lane and a small adjacent patch of land that belongs to our family. This patch of land has been kept in impeccable condition for the past 20 years; however, our new neighbours insist on driving their large 4×4 across it when they enter and depart from their driveway. As a result, this once pristine patch of land now resembles something of a swamp. I am not one for confrontation, so how can I restore this small patch of land to its former glory and put an end to my neighbour using it as a shortcut into their driveway? Help us Mary!

— P.G., Oxfordshire

A. Your neighbours may have no idea that this land belongs to you. An unconfrontational way to signal your ownership would be to plant a few semi-mature specimens in the centre of their preferred pathway. Print off some Queen’s Green Canopy Jubilee 2022 labels and adhere them to the saplings’ protective tubes.

Q. The wife of a prep-school friend sent me a curt message on social media asking me to send a video greeting for her husband’s 40th birthday. I have never met the wife, and haven’t seen the friend in years. I found this rather an imposition. How should I respond?

— P.W., London NW1

A. Video tributes have become the norm in the digital age and it would be churlish not to comply. Why not compromise by recording an all-purpose greeting of yourself saying: ‘Hi. I hope you have a great day.’ Send this clip in response to all such impersonal requests.

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