Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 16 November 2017

Also: how to avoid making unwanted purchases from traders you know socially

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Q. My husband, who used to be away on business most of the time, now works from home and has become bossy and dictatorial. He spends a good deal of his day advising me how the house could be better run. This is bringing tensions into our previously harmonious relationship. How can I put a stop to his interference in a delicate way without him feeling that I’ve ceased to respect his opinions? PS: the house already runs like clockwork.

— Name and address withheld

A. Why not act daft and agree with your husband that, since you seem to be less efficient than him, he should direct the running of the house himself and you will just obey his orders. To this end, keep a giant ledger open on a central surface and, as soon as he starts holding forth, interrupt pleasantly and direct him towards the ledger. Ask him to write down his advice in detail as the ideas come to him. Smile sweetly as you add: ‘Otherwise I’m sure to forget.’

Q. I have received a number of invitations to Christmas sales both locally and in London. I love going to these events; indeed, they are key to reminding me why I’m so happy in the friendly area where I live and what names I should add to my Christmas drinks party list. My problem is that when the stallholder is a social acquaintance, I obviously want to have a chat but then find it difficult to get away without buying something I don’t want. I’ve been caught out before, when I’ve said the produce is wonderful but I can’t carry anything more and been told, ‘Oh, leave all your bags here, we’ll look after them. Don’t worry. You buy as much as you like!’

— Name withheld, Inkpen, Berks

A. The solution is always to attend these sales with a non-local friend whose job will be to work the other side of the room and, whenever she sees you chatting for a dangerous length of time, to call you across on the pretext of showing you something on her side. The first stall-holder will feel frustrated that you were distracted but will not be offended by your failure to buy from her. Using this method, you can criss-cross your way through the sale without guilt.

Q. I was driven mad recently by a young punky woman who sent texts throughout a one-hour train journey without muting the keypad. What could I have said or done to stop her? Without causing offence, obviously.

— M.W., Stow-on-the-Wold

A. Had it been an old punky woman, you could have leaned across kindly and offered to show her how to mute the keypad. But since it was a young woman, she would have been well versed in keypad muting but more interested in attention-seeking. For ageist reasons, therefore, you should have moved carriage.

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