Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 1 June 2017

Also in Dear Mary: How can I make my friends stump up for opera tickets promptly?

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Q. I am a member of a well-known country house opera society, and I organise annual trips to performances for a group of friends. We all look forward to these very much, as we don’t see each other as often as we would like. As the member, I have to stump up a large sum in advance for the tickets and then recoup the money from my pals. Unfortunately one of our party pays very late, often leaving it to the day before the performance to cough up his share. I don’t wish to embarrass him and we enjoy his company very much, but I do not wish to keep providing long-term free credit. Can you suggest a tactful solution?

— Name and address withheld

A. Next time, send a round robin urging everyone to let you have their cheques ASAP so you can get the best seats. No need to enlarge on why you can’t front the money yourself as in previous years. Follow this up immediately with a second email to everyone but the offender, saying: ‘Please ignore request for cheques in advance, which does not apply to you as you have an excellent record for prompt payment.’

Q. I recently enjoyed the memoir about John Fleming and Hugh Honour by Susanna Johnston, who met the pair when they were all on the equivalent of gap years and had bed and board in France with the blind critic Percy Lubbock in exchange for reading aloud to him. My own father has recently lost his sight, but unlike Lubbock he cannot offer accommodation in a grand villa on the Riviera to any willing young, since he lives in Watford. His very willing Filipino does not speak English well enough, but she has downloaded Audible for him. The trouble is he thinks £7.99 a month is more than enough to pay out, and yet this only covers the cost of one book, which he finishes listening to within a few days. What do you suggest, Mary?

— Name and address withheld

A. Free audiobooks are available through YouTube — search ‘Learn English through story’.The only drawback is that every seven minutes or so you have to listen to an advert. If the kind attendant is at hand she can press ‘Skip ad’. Or if not, your father can just put up with them. The text flashes up on the screen at the same time as the narrator is reading it, which will help his kind attendant to improve her own proficiency. 

Q. I am a widow who has just moved to Anglesey. I would like to make the most of the social opportunities of the polling station. Can you advise me what is the best time of day to cast my vote to maximise on the chances of social interaction?

— S.B., Llangoed

A. You should go at 8.30 a.m., because this is the time when most alphas of a certain generation will be voting. You can pretend you’re waiting for a friend as you eye up the opportunities.

Also in Dear Mary: How to make the most of the social opportunities of the polling station