Q. A dear friend invited me to stay. There was a firm notice on the first landing saying ‘no dogs allowed upstairs’ but my little whippet is used to sleeping with me and she is very good. I smuggled her up to my room where, unfortunately, she had an accident within the bed. This is something which has never happened before. She must have had a tummy upset. Mary, I am a single man with no experience of laundry. I was leaving before dawn to go shooting and the help was not due in for a couple of hours. I felt I would be doing the right thing if I left the sheet to soak in my ensuite bathroom. Now my girlfriend points out that my hosts will attribute the accident to me, rather than to my dog, and I feel deeply embarrassed. How could I have made things right without admitting what really happened, Mary?
A. The best thing would have been to have taken the bedlinen away with you and had it professionally laundered before driving or posting it back. You could have spared your hosts distressing imagery by explaining that, your fountain pen having leaked into the sheet, you felt it incumbent on yourself to take the sheet away with you since you knew the name of a professional ink-stain remover and you were determined to cover the costs and administration yourself.
Q. I am at university with a number of people from my old school. One of these gave a dinner party to which many of my best friends went, but I was not invited. Although I was told afterwards that it was because there were only ten chairs at the dining table and I would have made it 11, I wonder how I can find out, without seeming sad, what was the real reason I wasn’t asked, as there is no way we couldn’t have all just eaten off our laps. Any suggestions?
A. You should not take this exclusion personally. In the age of Facebook there is no means whereby a student can put a limit on the numbers he or she can invite to something, since everyone knows what is happening and everyone is classed as a ‘friend’. Pretending to be pompous about sitting up at a dinner table with a limited number of chairs is one of the few get-out clauses available to a student wanting a social life where manageable discussions can take place rather than just having to deal with crowd control all the time.
Q. Mary, I am confused. I have always thought that tattoos were common, and I now hear they are known as ‘tramp stamps’, yet one or two ladies I know have had tattoos. Can you rule?
Z.B., London W11
A. The rule is that a temporary tattoo is absolutely fine. A permanent tattoo suggests an inability to project into the future to a time when one would regret the gesture. Therefore a permanent tattoo tends to signal an only partially baked thinker.
If you have a problem write to Dear Mary, c/o The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP.