Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 12 January 2017

Also: should one make eye contact with the other occupant in a Jacuzzi?

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Q. My son decided to go straight into work and has got a job. The problem is that it is in central London and none of his friends are available to share accommodation since they are all either on gap years or, if in London, in university halls. He’s been lucky enough to find a berth with a friend’s parents. He pays rent but, though they’ve given him his own small fridge, he doesn’t cook there — he doesn’t know how to and also he senses they would prefer he didn’t. Consequently he eats at Pizza Express every night using vouchers. He is a sociable boy and is used to holding court at home. How can he sustain a social life in these conditions, Mary?

— K.L.,Dulverton, Somerset

A. Why not buy him membership to the East India Club in St James’s Square? When the Public Schools Club merged with the East India in 1972, a scheme was initiated to confer seven years of membership on boys upon leaving school who can offer a letter of recommendation from their head. The junior fee of £420 represents outstanding value, with nothing more to pay until the age of 25.

Q. I have taken out membership of a gym as a New Year’s bid for self-improvement. What is the correct etiquette when entering a Jacuzzi which is already occupied by only one person, a stranger to me? Should I give the existing occupant privacy by ignoring them? Or acknowledge their presence with a discreet nod? Or should I even say hello?

— F.W., London SW12

A. It is the prerogative of the person already occupying the Jacuzzi to make eye contact first. If and when they do, you can smile and say ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ then look away quickly. They may not welcome the mental intrusion of what might be perceived as a conversation starter — and nor might you.

Q. I live off the Portobello Road and, during the normal course of daily errands, I inevitably run into at least four people I know. I am very paranoid myself about people who could appear to be cutting me, and so I end up chatting for a few minutes with each person I run into. There are so many people in Portobello that you can’t just stride purposefully ahead and pretend you haven’t seen anyone. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can keep up the momentum of my errands without these distractions?

— C.T., London W11

A. Wear eye-catching headphones, ideally with a bar over your head, and use this time to make phone calls. In this way, when you do see an acquaintance they will notice that you are already talking to someone else. They will welcome your beam of recognition and show of frustration that your conversation means you cannot engage with them. Mouth a greeting and reassure them with a brief hug if appropriate.