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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I escape my neighbour’s spy cameras?

Plus: A cure for London ‘location blindness’

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

Q. I have a problem with what might be called location blindness. I live in Balham, but when I arrange restaurant lunches with friends, most of whom live in west London, they tend to assume I will be happy to make three times as long a journey to meet up as they will have to make themselves. A good midpoint for me would be, for example, Green Park, which takes only 15 minutes by Tube from Clapham South, but often, when someone has agreed to meet there, they ring at the 11th hour to suggest Notting Hill instead (50 minutes by tube for me, ten minutes’ walk for them). Or else they say, ‘Let’s meet somewhere mutually convenient, like the British Museum.’ I feel like replying, ‘Or at Poundland on Balham Hill?’ How can I tactfully draw friends’ attention to the inequalities of effort required for us to have lunch together?
— J.F., Balham

A. First download ‘City Mapper’ on to your iPhone. This invaluable app gives options of midway meeting points between two postcodes. In future, when a potential lunch date suggests Notting Hill or the British Museum you can gush ‘What a good idea. But let me consult my app…’ Pause. ‘How amazing. No, we can’t do that… it would be good for you, only ten minutes, but 50 minutes for me! How extraordinary! Green Park seems to be the only place convenient to both of us.’ Laugh merrily to suggest that although you had never before realised the zoneism that had previously disadvantaged you, you are not bitter.


Q. My neighbour has installed a 24-hour, cactus-shaped 360-degree spy camera to monitor his second home, which he lets in the summer. From casual remarks it is clear my home is in camera range. He dismisses my polite request to have it removed, boasting that police once asked whether it recorded a local break-in to help their investigation. His letting agency is unlikely to inform tenants they are being observed. What can I do to get him to remove the infernal machine? I am tempted to tell the tenants, but am reluctant to stir things up.
— Name and address withheld

A Such cameras are not illegal unless the level of resolution is so high as to allow an unreasonable intrusion into your home. Find out how explicit the footage can be by asking to view some, on the grounds that you would not wish to be an accessory after the fact in being the cause of your neighbour breaking the law. The viewing will allow you to create a bespoke screen in your garden — perhaps of fast-growing bamboo — high enough and long enough for the camera not to be able to see past. In this way you create a blind spot in the moment when it makes its swoop past your garden.


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