Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 11 August 2012

Text settings

Q. I own a house in west London and my drawing-room window gives on to a pedestrian-only bottleneck where people hang around to smoke. Sometimes these are well-known and interesting figures who are on their way to a nearby newspaper office and I feel it would be fun to exchange a few words with them. Any suggestions as to how I can do this without appearing stalker-like, Mary?

— Name withheld, London W8

A. Train a climbing plant, such as jasmine, up the front of your house so that you can go out and tend to it when you spot a particularly appealing smoker outside. In this way an informal dialogue can be naturally struck up without your undergoing any loss of dignity.

Q. My grandson is at an international school in Egypt and is a very bright boy but he is only going to do the half baccalaureate rather than the full baccalaureate because he says it is not cool to do the full baccalaureate. What can be done?

— name and address withheld

A. Research a school where it is cool to do the full baccalaureate and suggest the boy be moved to it. He will thank you for it in later life.

Q. A friend from London likes to visit my local pub in the country at weekends where he joins me and a small group of mutual friends. Our problem is that at the very first sight of sun, he appears wearing rather scruffy shorts and biblical sandals. Despite this his legs are of such extraordinary beauty that any lady present becomes distracted by them while the gentlemen are consumed by jealousy or lust, according to individual proclivity. How can we indicate to my friend, without hurting his amiable and sensitive nature, that this unnecessary and strange exposure must cease?

— P.B., Wilmington, Wiltshire

A. It is acceptable to display physical superiority in the context of a beach or tennis court but bad form to display it at close quarters. Ring him to say that one of your group’s dogs has become phobic of men in shorts and ask if next time he could come in trousers.

Q. Your correspondent of 21 July was concerned by the nuisance of early-morning talkers. I have just returned from a villa holiday where 14 of us, ranging in age from 12 years old to 75, were guests of a generous host. The latter informed the house party on the first night after dinner that there was a morning club called ‘the Silent Circle’ to which anyone rising before 9a.m. would become an automatic member, as no talking was allowed before that time. This diktat turned out to be popular with all age groups.

— Q.C., Lewes, Sussex

A. Thank you for submitting this very useful tip.