Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 11 August 2016

Also in Dear Mary: mystery presents and a garden-party crisis

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Q. I live in Balham but work in Mayfair. Twice recently I have had to take whole days off work to wait in for deliveries of online purchases that could only be scheduled for ‘some time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.’ My son says this is the hidden price I must pay for shopping at low-cost outlets. I have a cleaner but she doesn’t work a 12-hour day. What do other people do?

—J.F., London SW12

A. Other people have had the sense to make friends with retired neighbours. Many of these long for the chance to get away from their partners and sit quietly reading in a neighbour’s house all day instead of being bothered in their own. You can recruit likely candidates by attending jubilee street parties, pub quizzes, planning meetings and Women’s Institute meetings (which take place once a month in Balham). Just as with speed-dating, you will be able to tell instinctively which neighbour would fit the bill. £20 a day is the going rate.

Q. Our kind daughter-in-law has given us a perfect golden wedding party. Many cards and some unexpected presents were left: two beautiful plants and a cup were detached from cards. Is there any way in which we might thank the givers? Since we hadn’t expected anything, we never made a plan. Is there a polite way out of the dilemma?

—Name and address withheld

A. You must hand this chore over to your daughter-in-law, since she will have the email addresses of all attendees. It is just a matter of her photographing the cup and plants and sending a group email asking donors to identify themselves. Or, like Martha Lane Fox, putting them on Instagram. Once the donors speak up, you can write to thank them. The last thing your daughter-in-law would want is for your party to have left any sort of legacy of angst.

Q. I’ve sent out the invitations to a late summer drinks party in the communal garden of our London house. I didn’t realise that there would be a problem with the other residents who may not want us to put up a marquee and portable loos for the night but, in any case, are all away on holiday and won’t get back in time to greenlight it. Since my husband’s boss is the guest of honour I don’t want him to look as though he has an incompetent wife. How can we save face? We can hardly uninvite 100 people.

— Name withheld, London W11

A. This could turn out to be a blessing in disguise since, even with heaters blazing, marquees tend to be chilly inside, and there is always the risk of drunks falling over the guy ropes. Have the party inside. To make room for 100 guests, hire a removal van to drive your furniture around the block for the duration. It will cost about a third as much as hiring a marquee and the nuisance value will be about equal.