Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 12 May 2012

Your problems solved

Q. My wife was a recovering alcoholic. Now she is a lapsed recovering alcoholic. After three years of sobriety she has taken up the bottle again. I feel that if only she could hear the foul-mouthed and irrational tirades she delivers when under the influence, she might go back onto the wagon. I have recorded several of the hideous conversations she and I have had late at night with the idea of playing them back to her in the morning. Do you think I should try it, Mary?
— Name and address withheld

A. Definitely not. Recording her in this way is a violation of the trust between you. Much better to let her inadvertently record herself while ranting. To this end, introduce her to the speech recognition facility on her laptop. Surprisingly few people are aware of this application, which is used by Philip Pullman’s wife to dictate his handwritten novels into print form. Once it’s activated, and it has become used to your speech, the results are excellent.
You have told me your wife’s profession and she is bound to find the service invaluable. Then all you need to do is to have a row with her in front of the laptop while speech recognition is turned on and to make sure she does not look at the results until the cold light of the following day. Don’t let on that you even know. For maximum effect, let her ponder on the print in privacy.

Q. We have three (completely unconnected) sets of friends who insist on guests holding hands and saying grace before eating lunch or dinner in their homes.

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