Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 17 November 2016

Plus: A young man who keeps apologising to me about a long-forgotten infraction

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Q. Following a lavish house party I received a flood of effusive thank-you letters, the bulk of which praised the impeccable service, the luxurious treats laid on nightly, and my attentiveness to my guests’ every whim. One letter, however, commenced in a fairly complimentary vein but soon devolved into a letter of complaint about a fellow guest. So vehemently did the author express his antipathy that he covered two sides of paper. I concede that the young woman in question is an acquired taste, but I resent my friends being subject to character assassinations. How can I reprehend the scribe?

— Name withheld, London W2

A. Bear in mind that this letter is something of a compliment. The author defies convention to put your welfare above his own. In speaking his mind, he risks his own exclusion from future house parties. If you still wish to punish, invite him to an ‘acquired taste’ restaurant such as Quo Vadis on Dean Street, not mentioning you have also invited the subject of his scathing diatribe. On arrival he will have to appear delighted at the surprise, as per social niceties. This unenjoyable evening will be made worse by your studious failure to bring it to an end by asking for the bill. Eventually your guest will be forced to do so himself and to ‘insist’ on paying.

Q. A peripheral friend is under the impression that I still hold a grudge against him due to a minor transgression that occurred at an after-party I gave a year and a half ago. (I discovered this peripheral friend dancing in his dirty shoes on one of my newly upholstered sofas.) I was furious at the time, but had forgotten the incident. However, every time I encounter the perpetrator socially, he manages to corner me and launches into earnest and lengthy offerings of remorse, repeating ‘I do feel we got off to a bad start and I would sincerely like to make amends.’ How can I politely but firmly put an end to his gushing apologies?

— F.W., London W11

A. You have misinterpreted the gushing apologies: they are merely a means for him to make an overture towards you. You may not yet have seen his point but this reformed oaf has one thing to recommend him — consistency. It’s a quality in short supply among young men of today. Why not allow him to make amends by agreeing to a dinner date where you can consider him in a less hectic context?

Q. Further to your recommending the Grosvenor Hotel, may I help avert confusion by pointing out that ‘the Grosvenor’ is often used to refer to the larger and more pretentious Grosvenor House off Park Lane. The Grosvenor you refer to was for a few years called the ‘Thistle Victoria’ but has now reverted to its traditional name.

— O.B.,London SW19

A. Thank you for clearing up this matter.