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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: I can’t put names to faces – and it’s starting to upset friends

8 September 2018

9:00 AM

8 September 2018

9:00 AM

Q. I am in my mid-sixties and have started to suffer from nominal aphasia. At a recent wedding in the Highlands, two very familiar faces came towards me and I couldn’t put a name to either. Worse, at a wake following a funeral, one old friend was very upset when I failed to recognise her, she claimed wrongly that it must have been because she had aged since we’d last met. I seem to have the rest of my faculties intact, so I wouldn’t want it to get around that I am ‘losing it’.

— Name and address withheld

A. As a general rule, at large events you should always make a beeline for the seating plan and scan it thoroughly. You will then be more able to match the familiar names with faces. If you are still at sea when someone comes up to you, greet them warmly, then ask in conspiratorial manner: ‘What’s your news?’ Listen intently. This is such a common dilemma among all age groups that it makes a nonsense of the snobbery against name badges, which are so useful at corporate events and which could also bring huge confidence to a social event. All too often people complain afterwards that they had no idea X or Y was also there and would love to have talked to them had they known.


Q. When at the departure gate waiting to board a seven-hour flight, I was informed I had been upgraded for free to business class. Having just the previous day completed a 17-hour flight, I was delighted. Unfortunately, my wife, who had booked separately, (and had not endured the l7-hour flight) was not upgraded. She took the point of view that if she could not be upgraded, then I should not be either. I was given the option by the airline to (a) take the upgrade myself (thereby annoying my wife), (b) give the upgrade to my wife, or (c) for neither of us to take the upgrade and to let it go to a stranger. I was forced to choose the third option. Which was the right choice and how could I have got away with enjoying the upgrade myself?

— Michael, Dubai

A. In assuming that the airline would automatically upgrade the wife of someone who was being upgraded, your wife played her cards badly. Once it was established that only one business-class seat was available, common sense decreed that your wife — in recognition of your flight the day before — should have graciously waved you through the curtain. However, childish competitiveness plays a part in many marriages. Therefore what you should have opted to do was let it be decided by the toss of a coin. In that way at least one of you could have been better rested when you arrived at your destination.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers who are still on holiday? When snoozing on a lounger, a sleep mask is more comfortable and safer than a pair of sunglasses.

— P.W., Santa Margherita, Italy

A. Thank you for sharing this tip.


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