Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 16 February 2017

Also in Dear Mary: how can I stop my artist husband sketching during concerts; advice for one-eared insomniacs

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Q. My husband and I like to go to concerts and recitals but he is an artist with a very annoying habit of sketching the musicians in performance. The scratch of the pencil and his hand movements are distracting and I worry about his annoying other people nearby. Sometimes it is too dark for him to see what he’s doing, but not always. When I ask him to stop, he insists no one else minds (even though people have, on occasion, voiced their irritation). What can I do to stop this annoying habit?

—S.T., Chirton, Wiltshire

A. Make a point of always buying three tickets rather than two. Give the third ticket as a present to a series of acquaintances unknown to your husband. Your guest should travel separately to the performance and make no attempt to greet you as he takes his seat beside you. The deal is that, in exchange for the free ticket, once the sketching starts he will lean forward to politely signal that he finds it distracting. In this way you can achieve the desired result by proxy while sidestepping any Punch and Judy-style unpleasantness between you and your husband.

Q. My next-door neighbour has the most extremely noisy keys. I live in an apartment block and every time she comes and goes (incredibly frequently) she locks and unlocks all five locks, which can be heard all the way through my apartment to the living room. When in my bedroom, which is adjacent to the front door, it sounds as if there is a home invasion and someone is coming in at my door. How best, without being rude, to ask her to somehow reduce the noise or perhaps lock fewer locks?

—A.M.B., London SW

A. Start by spraying the locks yourself from the outside with WD-40. If this fails to reduce the noise then download baby-crying noises from the internet and play them at full volume for ten minutes each time your neighbour comes home. After two days take flowers next door and apologise as you explain that your occasional baby guest wakes when the locks are turned. You’ve tried moving him to other rooms but the noise carries right through the apartment. Coax her to the conclusion that she should have her locks reconditioned and rendered altogether more silent.

Q. I have begun to suffer from insomnia. Too tired to read with

a bedside torch, I have discovered LBC’s Steve Allen show. This hilarious three hours of extemporisation and commentary on the news-papers hits the spot to dissipate night terrors. I wear headphones so as not to disturb my wife, who sleeps like a log, but these are uncomfortable and if take one out the noise wakes her. How can I resolve this without sleeping separately?

—Name and address withheld

A. Single earphones exist and cost from £3.20. Put one in the ear you are not lying on.