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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I greet friends without clashing specs?

Plus: Directory inquiries for the elderly; how to correct a poor compliment

24 October 2015

9:00 AM

24 October 2015

9:00 AM

Q. As an old trout, large in height and breadth, I have taken a leaf out of the documentary Advanced Style (which celebrates elderly chic) and purchased a pair of oversize specs with big solid frames, plain in style, not à la Dame Edna. My problem is that every time I greet a friend and get kissed on one or both cheeks, it is either a clash of specs or I bump them uncomfortably on the cheek with the frames. What to do? To whip the specs off before the greeting seems as if I am expecting a slightly more intimate hallo. To angle my head away seems a bit unfriendly. Or do I just carry on clashing?
—Name and address withheld

A. Since the whole currency of social kissing has been devalued by excess, now would be an excellent moment to rise above the mob and embrace an advanced style of greeting. Instead of even attempting to kiss, cry the word ‘hug!’ as you loom down on friends with head angled away. They will instinctively mirror your movement and angle their own heads away. You will thereby achieve a clash-free greeting. Work to develop a seemly hug which signals affection yet avoids space invasion.


Q. At 84 my very social and very active mother can’t get to grips with using the internet to look up phone numbers. Unfortunately neither can she get to grips with taking in how much it now costs to ring directory inquiries (at least £5.40 for a minute). She recently ran up a bill of £32 for a single call by allowing the operator to connect her call directly at another iniquitous fee per minute. What should I do?
— J.L., London W3

A. The good news is that a free directory inquiry service exists for those who can qualify through short-sightedness, arthritis, memory loss and other medical conditions that make difficult the looking up of numbers in the normal manner. Most people of 84 will easily fall into at least one of the relevant categories. Request a form to be posted out by ringing 0800 5870195. Your mother’s GP should countersign it to confirm her need. She will then get future numbers for free by ringing 195 and quoting a pin number. Moreover the 195 operator will even connect her call without it costing any more than it would have done had she dialled the number directly.

Q. I’ve just read your tip about dire recitals. A few years ago a friend and I played some duets in a concert in Pewsey church. Neither of us was Lang Lang, but nonetheless my duet partner and I were put out when afterwards a member of the audience, whom I knew as a fellow mother at the local school, came up to us and said ‘Well done for having a go!’
— S.T.,Chirton,Wilts

A. You might have replied, ‘Oh thank you. Do say it again! But next time stop after “Well done”.’


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