Dear Mary

Dear Maryrss


18 October 2014

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

11 October 2014

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

4 October 2014

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


27 September 2014

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


20 September 2014

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

13 September 2014

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

6 September 2014

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

30 August 2014

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

23 August 2014

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

16 August 2014

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

9 August 2014

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


2 August 2014

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?

26 July 2014

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


19 July 2014

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


12 July 2014

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


5 July 2014

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

28 June 2014

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

21 June 2014

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


14 June 2014

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


7 June 2014

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

Rictus smiles all round (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty)

31 May 2014

Q. Two acquaintances of mine have somehow inveigled their way into my dining circuit. They are men who, despite privilege and early promise, have made failures of their lives, but… Read more

24 May 2014

Q. My dear English husband has never mastered the knack of timing his interventions in conversation. He hesitates politely, and by the time somebody pauses, his comments are no longer… Read more

17 May 2014

Q. An architect is overseeing some builders at my house. She is a perfectly nice woman but has a maddening habit of lowering and fluttering her eyelids when talking to… Read more


10 May 2014

Q. On arrival at a top level dinner, I was surprised to see at the table a woman who, I have reason to suspect, sells gossip as a sideline. However,… Read more

3 May 2014

Q. My sister and I own a popular caravan park which, for 30 years, has given happiness to around a hundred caravan owners a week. Over the past three years,… Read more