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Dear Mary

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

Plus: If you don’t like wearing high heels, why not stand on a block of wood?

27 September 2014

8:00 AM

27 September 2014

8:00 AM

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 there. We get on well but he hasn’t mentioned this debut, probably because he knows how irritating it would be for him to see me beaming adoringly out of the audience. I calculate that the venue holds 50 people at most so there is no way I could go unnoticed. A disguise would be absurd. I would be so interested to hear what he has to say, but obviously I don’t want to disconcert him or throw him off his stride. I don’t believe Idler talks are repeated online so how can I enjoy this one?
— C.F., London W11

A. The Idler Academy has a garden behind the speaking area. You would do well to arrive early for the talk and hide there during preparations (by arrangement with sympathetic Academy manager Julian Mash). You could then come in through the back door just after the talk has started and sit behind your son in a pre-positioned seat which is out of his field of vision. How and whether you reveal yourself once the talk is over must be left to your own judgment.


Q. Is there a technique for mending vintage fur coats? It seems impossible to stitch seams together when the leather has become brittle.
— S.G., London E1

A. You should not try to stitch. This task can be performed using leather off-cuts and carpet glue. Unpick the lining so as to approach the tears from behind — you can stitch it back up easily enough when finished — and carefully realign the splits by gluing on invisible leather patches on the inside.

Q. I write for glossy magazines and in my world there is an endless round of smart drinks parties. I would love not to have to wear high-heeled shoes to these events. I find even the most expensive brands agonising and unsteady to walk in, but when every other woman around has increased her height by six inches, I would just look very small and squat by contrast if I didn’t wear them. Don’t tell me just to sit down — there is never a chair in sight.
— Name and address withheld

A. Bring a nine-inch block of wood with you in a beige plastic bag. Put it against a wall, and wearing, for example, an ultra smart pair of, say, Manolo Blahnik pale-pink suede flat brogues, stand on the block for the evening. It will mean you can’t circulate, but in many ways it is better not to circulate at a party and rather just let people approach you. Should colleagues look down and remark ‘Oh, you’re standing on a block of wood!’ then agree that yes you are, you can’t resist it because it gives you a much better view of the room. There is no need to admit you brought the block yourself.


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