Mary Killen

Dear mary

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Q. My father has worked pro bono for many years on the advisory board of a certain company with a long established reputation for gentlemanly values. When a new chief executive was appointed, he rang to offer his congratulations and to introduce himself but the assistant who took his call had to ask him to spell his name so she could take a message. When he explained that he was on the board of advisors, the assistant replied that she had no record of him, and she thought the new executive would be ‘getting in his own advisors’. This turns out to have been the case and my father’s telephone call was not returned, nor has he heard anything by way of ‘thank you for your help over the years’ even by telephone. My father, who still has many years of useful advice in him, feels demoralised but wants to take no action. Mary, what do you suggest?

— Name and address withheld

A. Such uncivilised behaviour is increasingly commonplace. The present is another country and they do things differently here. However the eternal verity remains intact. No one ever made money in the long term by underestimating the value of gentlemanly behaviour. You need take no punitive action. The chief executive will see to his own inevitable downfall.

Q. My brother has asked if he and his new girlfriend can come and stay in our Paris flat at a time when he knows we will not be there. I can’t think of a reason to say no except that I don’t like the vibe of his new girlfriend. Also she seems way too inquisitive about everything. I can too easily imagine her going through our cupboards etc while my brother’s back is turned. What should I do?

— Name and address withheld

A. Why not put your suspicions to the test? Lend the couple your flat, but before they arrive, buy a low-cost lockable mini-cupboard. Lie it on its back and fill it with hundreds of marbles from a toy shop. Lock it, then mount the cupboard securely on a wall in your bedroom with the key left in the lock with a label on it saying ‘Private’. If the new girlfriend sneaks into your bedroom, she will find the locked cupboard irresistible and will open its door with undisguisable results.

Q. I owe quite a lot of hospitality and want to pay people back with a Sunday lunch, but my age group is very flakey and every time I arrange something about half of the people cancel a few hours beforehand, especially if it’s good weather, and I end up with a cast of understudies. How can I pin these flakey people down?

— B.C., London W11

A. Instead of aiming for a formal lunch, why not invite twice as many people as you want to an informal picnic by the Serpentine in Hyde Park? You supply the food and drink and rugs for this moveable feast. If it rains, retreat to your W11 accommodation.