Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I stop my father’s girlfriend boiling a full kettle for one cup of tea?

23 April 2022

9:00 AM

23 April 2022

9:00 AM

Q. Financially successful friends have kindly invited my husband and me to stay for a week in France. Our problem is that last time we went they asked each couple to post €200 for tips through the hatch of a postbox-style container so they could share out the money appropriately after everyone had left. Named envelopes were discouraged on the grounds that ‘I trust you all’. Annoyingly, later that year, I happened to overhear my host mention that one couple (of the ten staying) had failed to contribute. Mary, how can I ensure that he knows we have paid our dues when the moment comes round again?

– J.L., Cornwall

A. Ask your host to remind you of the nearest ATM the day before you leave. Apologise for having to dart into town – double-check, was it €200? This should suffice to signal your contribution. However, hosts of house parties should note the obvious drawbacks posed by this passive-aggressive method of collecting tips.


Q. One of my dear friends, only in her mid-fifties, has become very forgetful and, on a couple of recent occasions has failed to turn up for meetings, causing her distress and involving wasted journeys for me. Mary, how can I ensure she remembers our rendezvous without it looking like I am checking up on her?

– R.M., Suffolk

A. On the day, leaving plenty of time for her to get organised if she has forgotten, send her a text saying, -for example: ‘Stupid me, but we DID say midday today, didn’t we?’ While placing the charge of forgetfulness on to yourself, you will prompt her into action if the meeting has slipped her mind.

Q. My father’s girlfriend, who has started staying over in our house, always boils a whole kettle of water – 1.7 litres – for just one cup of tea. How, without making her feel that I disapprove of her/don’t like her, can I get my point across that this is something she should not be doing in the climate emergency? Occasionally I have insisted that I will make the tea for her, and then mentioned that there is no need to fill the whole kettle – but she doesn’t seem to take it in. I’ve asked my father to say something but he has just told me to ‘chill and try to make her feel welcome’. Any advice, Mary?

– Name and address withheld

A. Buy a camping kettle which takes just 400ml of water, and hide your normal kitchen kettle. If anyone asks where the ‘normal’ kettle is, explain that it seems to be broken but fortunately you have found this small kettle which is actually far better because not only does it do the job, but it also saves the household a lot of money, to say nothing of curbing emissions.

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