Mary Killen rss

Mary Killen writes The Spectator’s Dear Mary column.

Dear Mary: Dealing with your old friends now you’re a big success

Q. Success has come to me in later life with an unfortunate side effect. Since my career has taken off, I cannot see my friends as much as I used… Read more

Dear Mary: How to talk to friends whose book you haven’t read

Q. What is the correct thing to say to a writer friend whose book you haven’t read? I buy most friends’ books out of loyalty but there have been so… Read more


Dear Mary: How can I stop my future son-in-law saying ‘must of’

Q. My future son-in-law has been successfully house-trained in the use of upper-middle-class English over the years that he has been walking out with my daughter. However, one bad habit… Read more


Dear Mary: Is there a tactful way to shorten the guest list for my 21st?

Q. I am organising my 21st birthday party at our family house in Italy. It is a fantastic location, but it means that I can only invite about 20 guests.… Read more

Dear Mary: Learning to love a man who whistles through his nose

Q. What can you do when disorganised friends say they would love to come to a concert with you but you suspect they won’t get round to buying the tickets?… Read more


Dear Mary: Can I ask for a lift on my friend's private jet?

Q. We have moved to the country and my husband often prefers me to drive — not because he wants to drink, but just because he’s quite a lazy fellow by… Read more

Dear Mary: Can I run out on an apprenticeship for my dream interview?

Q. I have been trying to get an apprenticeship in fashion for over a year without success. I just had a day-long interview where I had to sew and cut… Read more

Dear Mary: Must we tip other people's servants in London, too?

Q. What is the etiquette on tipping in London houses? I have been in the habit of staying with friends who don’t have cleaners and live fairly dishevelled lives so… Read more


Dear Mary: How can I sneak into a talk my son is giving without him seeing me?

Q. The Idler Academy is within walking distance of my house and I note from the programme of autumn events that my own son is due to give a talk… Read more


Dear Mary: Is there anything that can stop companies throwing away my CV?

Q. I graduated this year (I got a first) and have written more than 70 letters to potential employers. Those who deigned to reply just sent formulaic acknowledgements and regrets.… Read more

Dear Mary: Is it rude to answer my child's call when I'm already on the phone?

Q. My problem is that an older friend, with whom I enjoy lengthy telephone chats, becomes furious when my call waiting service flashes up the number of one of my… Read more

Dear Mary: How would you answer Radek Sikorski’s goose-stepping question?

Q. In his Spectator notebook of 30 August, describing a recent gaudy at the Oxford college he attended in the l980s, Radek Sikorski asked, ‘Dear Mary, please help, what do… Read more

Dear Mary: Is it an insult to be given anti-ageing cream?

Q. When someone gives you anti-ageing cream as a present, is that an insult or a compliment? — A.O., Provence A. It is both, but such creams make pointless presents.… Read more

Dear Mary: Show me the tactful way to pay for a lift

Q. My neighbour is really lovely and always helps me chainsaw trees. He used to be the herdsman at the farm but was laid off last summer when they sold… Read more

Dear Mary: What do we do with a teenage guest who hogs the bathroom?

Q. We have taken a flat in Edinburgh for a month and a young girl, temporarily homeless and a friend of one of our sons, has moved in with us.… Read more

Dear Mary: Help me hunt down my priceless missing book

Q. A scholarly book of great importance to me appears to have gone missing from my library. It was heavily annotated so it is irreplaceable. I lend books all the… Read more


Dear Mary: How to accept wine refills at parties without getting drunk

Q. At a drinks or a dinner party, when very attentive waiters are hovering, I tend to let them keep topping my glass up since the alternative — continuing to… Read more

How can I train my brother to not eat like a pig?

Dear Mary: How can I tame my brother’s savage table manners?

Q. I live far away from my brother and his family, but went to stay with them recently for the first time in many years. Having supper was like eating… Read more


Dear Mary: How do I train my husband not to shout for me from far-flung rooms?

Q. My former cleaner has now retired and lives nearby. I visit her with clockwork regularity and always enjoy seeing her, but the problem is that although we may have… Read more


Dear Mary: Our holiday hosts swim naked

Q.  We have recently returned from Provence where we stayed the first night with distant relatives. We woke on a perfect morning to sounds of laughter in the pool, so… Read more


Dear Mary: Do men really have worse table manners when they’re on their own?

Q.  My 16-year-old son, who has recently had his first experiences of Clubland, has observed to me, his mother, that men’s table manners degenerate inside men-only clubs. Is this true?… Read more

Dear Mary: How can I evade nosy questions at parties?

Q. How, in a party context, can one avoid answering what used to be called ‘nosey’ questions without being rude? A revered friend counts among his intimates a priest who,… Read more

Dear Mary: What's the cure for a workshy teenager?

Q. I agreed to give (paid) gap-year work experience in my own large garden to the grandson of an extremely nice neighbour. I need the assistance and, in theory, a… Read more


Dear Mary: What’s the best way to turn down charity requests?

Q. I am the co-owner of a chocolate business which regularly receives requests for donations of goody bags and raffle prizes. I take a dim view when these come addressed… Read more


Dear Mary: Is there a polite way to ask for the return of a handbag full of cash?

Q. A friend regularly hires a stall at a general neighbourhood market in order to sell surplus second-hand clothes and women’s accessories. She recently sold one of her handbags to… Read more