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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I make my slobbish flatmate pay for a cleaner?

18 May 2013

9:00 AM

18 May 2013

9:00 AM

Q. My godmother owns a house in a great part of London. She does not come up very often and she is very kindly allowing me to move in for a year with three university friends. I will be landlady and collect the very low rent she will charge us. It is amazingly kind of her so I am annoyed that one of my intended lodgers, who has never even met my godmother, but will benefit from her generosity just through being a friend of mine, refuses to contribute towards a cleaner. He says it will be a waste of money for us to spend, collectively, £120 a week (£30 each) on a cleaner, because we could spend that money giving two dinner parties a week instead. None of the rest of us wants to waste time cleaning and I know this friend to be a major slob, so how can I resolve this without falling out with him?
—Name and address withheld

A. Your mistake was to offer the slob a choice. First find a cleaner. Then announce to the others that your godmother has come back to you, very apologetically, with a rent rise. Say it was £400 a week before — it is now £520 but the good news is that she is throwing in a free cleaner for that. Secretly, you will pay the cleaner — ensuring that the cash is not left in a taunting pile, but hidden somewhere by arrangement.


Q. I suffer from a mild form of face blindness, so when I meet someone at a party who I should know very well, I have to talk to them for quite a while before I can remember who they are. People who realise that I am all at sea are often offended.
What are your suggestions, Mary?
—M.G., London NW3

A. Depending on your age, immediately flourish a smartphone or a pen and paper and say, ‘Thank goodness you are here. I have lost all my contacts/address book. Before we do anything else, could you write your details down for me so I can update my records?’

Q. My artist friend Richard Foster infuriates me by constantly boasting that he shares a birthday with Velázquez i.e. the sixth of June. I find this tiresome. How can I, without causing offence, get him to stop banging on about this and go back to producing his excellent landscapes and portraits of the likes of such patrons as Lord and Lady Fellowes of Downton Abbey?
—J.W., London SE1

A. I see that Richard Foster has an exhibition in Cork Street in early June. Why not turn up at the opening party dressed as Velázquez and boast that you share a birthday with Foster? In this way you will practise a form of aversion therapy, causing Foster to conflate the name Velázquez with the experience of having someone else steal his thunder. You should soon see an end to the nuisance.


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