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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Should I follow Cilla Black’s lead on disabled loos?

Plus: The local landowner’s excessive tree-planting; and when it’s fine to blank someone

20 June 2015

9:00 AM

20 June 2015

9:00 AM

Q. I was at the theatre recently and bumped into a well-known Liverpudlian crooner coming out of the disabled lavatory. She said ‘Don’t worry, luv, it’s fine to use them if no disabled people are waiting.’ Often theatre interval queues are long and in some of London’s better restaurants the ‘disabled toilet’ is closer, cleaner and more convenient. Is there a ruling on this or was Cilla correct?
— N.C., Stanton St Bernard, Wilts

A. Common sense tells us Cilla is right — but it is only correct to use disabled lavatories if you can be certain you will not thereby stymie the – possibly more urgent — need of a member of the select group for whom the facility is intended. To this end Cilla should only have used it with the door ajar.


Q. With the best of green intentions a local landowner has planted many hundreds of trees. Unfortunately a particular group of six beeches threatens to screen off the village’s view of the downs. We believe the landowner rarely approaches his house through our village. If he did, he might realise the planting has been insensitive. But how to ask him to cut them down? Many of the other affected villagers are employed by the big house or would otherwise be too shy to rock the boat by joining in a petition.
— Name and address withheld

A. A petition would strike the wrong note. Instead write to the landowner in your own name. Congratulate him on the planting he has already carried out and gush that you would like to contribute six more beeches for him to plant anywhere he wants on his own estate. Meanwhile might he consider converting the existing beech avenue into a beech hedge to restore to the village its much-loved view of the downs? Six beech saplings will cost you no more than £100.

Q. The other day I saw a young man I know through one of my daughters. He was standing across a field at a country sporting event. I am not sure whether he saw me but I realised that, were I to wave, it would mean that we would both have to lead our groups (mine of six and his of four) across a hundred yards of ploughed field and then go through the palaver of mass introductions. Did I do the right thing in pretending not to have seen him? If not, how should I make amends?
— Name and address withheld

A. As the senior person, it would have been up to you to make the first move of greeting. However, the scenario you describe, where so many would be inconvenienced by a greeting, is one where what might be called ‘benign snubbing’ is acceptable. This is also permitted at funerals, car crashes, school prizegivings, sporting contests and other events where the attention is meant to be very much focused on a specific person or activity. You can always text people later to say you caught a glimpse of them and hope to see them again soon in a more manageable context.


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