Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How should I handle summer invitations when I might get a better offer?

4 June 2022

9:00 AM

4 June 2022

9:00 AM

Q. In order to raise money for a worthwhile cause, I have agreed to open my garden for the first time and provide a sit-down lunch for 30. My problem is that there are certain local people who I really don’t want to come and snoop around, but I fear that once they see the advertisement they will be the first to buy tickets and thereby displace slower-off-the mark locals whose company I would genuinely enjoy. Can you help, Mary?

– Name and address withheld

A. Insert a codicil at the end of the advertisement warning: ‘Places are limited and will be balloted.’


Q. How do you reply to summer invitations which are sent out many weeks in advance when you cannot predict whether you will even be in the country at the time? It is so rude not to reply promptly when the host is clearly trying to organise something extravagant and wants to know whom he can sit next to whom, but I don’t want to accept and then find I have a better invitation to go abroad on the date in question. Any advice, Mary?

– B.B., London W11

A. It is easy to get a reputation for keeping your options open so you must answer yes or no swiftly. Party invitations are a bit like marriage proposals: are you going to say yes to a good-enough ‘party’ or decide to hedge your bets in case a blockbusting super-party comes along later? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Throw in your lot with the good-enough invitation. The rule of thumb when deciding whether to accept an invitation which comes many weeks in advance is to ask yourself: ‘If it was happening tomorrow, would I like to go to it?’ If the answer is no then turn it down without dithering.

Q. I cannot afford the going rent in the city where I have just started my first job. However, thanks to a bachelor friend of my mother, I am paying a reduced rate to share his centrally located flat, which he likes to have as a bolthole for himself for random nights. The agreement is that I won’t entertain in the flat and will keep it immaculately clean. Everything is fine and my landlord makes an appearance only about twice a month, yet he himself always leaves a trail of destruction in our shared bathroom and kitchen which I have to clear up. I am far too mousy to say anything. What do you think I should do?

– L.B., Edinburgh

A. Why not arrange for your mother to drop into the flat when you next know your landlord is going to be in residence? Leave it to her to scream in disbelief at the mess and chastise you while you hang your head in silence until the landlord has to admit that it is he who is responsible for the trail of destruction.

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