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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Is it rude to answer my child's call when I'm already on the phone?

Plus: Learn to blow your nose without being noticed; and prevent book theft

13 September 2014

9:00 AM

13 September 2014

9:00 AM

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 elusive children and I ask if I may put her on hold very briefly. She says it is rude to her, that I have spoilt my children, and ‘they’ll just have to wait’. My friend is not in touch with the frantic pace of the modern world and does not grasp that the child may not respond if I call back five minutes later, thus causing me anxiety. I value our conversations but we have reached an impasse. What should I do? — M.W., Pewsey, Wilts

A. If you are on your mobile, say ‘Can I call you back from a landline?’ and vice versa if you’re already on a landline. Hang up directly to allow the waiting call to come through. Ring her back as quickly as you can, but without apology. As long as she does not think that someone else has trumped her telephonically, she will probably enjoy the ‘intermission’ and use the time productively, for example to make a cup of tea.


Q. While in Turkey my husband and I experienced our first hammam. Unfortunately I was taken by surprise when the attendants, having sluiced us down with deliciously relaxing warm water as we lay side by side, corpse-like, on great slabs of marble, then dumped bucket loads of foamy water over us. My mouth was ajar like a gaping fish at the time and I inadvertently gulped. By the following morning I had developed a sore throat and a very bad cold. In Turkey it is considered impolite to blow your nose in public. To sniff disgustingly would be even worse, but I find I can manage with the help of an antihistamine, blowing only in loos (excellent here) and under the table in restaurants, pretending to have dropped something. On the beach, my commodious beach bag allows me to bend over the side of my lounger and put my head entirely inside.
I now think this system rather good form and will continue it at home. — O.A., Kas, Turkey

A. Though not such a classic breach in this country, most evolved Britons sense instinctively that noses should be seen but not heard — so thank you for sharing this timely selection of tips.

Q. Regarding the non-return of loaned books (passim), I have got around this problem by commissioning sticky, rather than gummed, ex-libris labels that identify me as the owner, and affixing one to both spine and front cover. I have had no problems since.
— S.M., Puddletown, Dorset

A. Thank you for this useful tip.


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