Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I deal with my book club’s dietary requirements?

2 April 2022

9:00 AM

2 April 2022

9:00 AM

Q. I live in the Hampshire countryside, in a lovely apartment where I have the use of an old walled garden which I share with the occupant of the adjacent apartment. My issue is with my neighbour, an elderly eco-warrior. His latest crusade involves building a variety of hedgehog hotels scattered about the garden. My subtle suggestions that Mr and Mrs Tiggywinkle would struggle to scale the heights of the garden walls have fallen upon deaf ears. To make matters worse, Mr Samuel Whiskers and his wife Anna Maria have now taken up residence in one of these five-star abodes, and I worry that before long there will be the pitter-patter of tiny feet. Mary, how do I broach the subject with my gentlemanly neighbour?

– C.S., Winchester, Hampshire

A. Why not act daft and suggest that a good way to promote his eco-agenda would be to invite the nature correspondent of a lifestyle glossy such as Hampshire Living to visit the garden with a view to publicising the hedgehog initiative. In this way the nature correspondent, rather than yourself, can deliver the inconvenient truth.


Q. My university housemate, who takes countless selfies, never sees a side view of herself and has not realised she is growing a double chin. I feel I should say something in case it is caused by her staring down into her phone and laptop and therefore could be stopped. But if it’s hereditary, I don’t want to add to her paranoia. What do you suggest, Mary?

– Name and address withheld

A. It is almost certainly ‘tech neck’ caused, as you suspect, by staring down at screens. The facial exercise guru Eva Fraser (who died at 91, looking 51) treated many teen and twenty-somethings for this. Download Face to Face with Eva Fraser (£15, evafraser.com). Install a French-style triptych mirror on your dressing table and start doing exercises against imaginary pouching on your own face. Your housemate, having seen herself in the three-sided mirror, will soon follow suit. She will thereby put a stop to the deterioration.

Q. I decided I would give lunch to my book-club group and sent a round robin asking if anyone had allergies. Every member has emailed back with something they can’t eat: gluten, dairy, nuts, even rice and tomatoes – or else they are vegan. There is literally nothing I could give that would suit everyone, but it seems mean to withdraw the invitation. Mary, what should I do?

– H.P., London SW18

A. Send another round robin saying you will still provide all the drinks and lay the table and make everything nice but, due to the allergy epidemic, can everyone bring their own lunch.

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