Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 18 May 2017

Also: the importance of talking to children; the right way to wash wine glasses

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Q. My mother always told me that only boring people are bored. However she never got stuck at a drinks party discussing the pros and cons of HS2 or the impact of Crossrail on people’s commute. What is the best way of extricating oneself from a painfully dull conversation? Getting a drink is dangerous (they’ll want one too), the loo technique never fools anyone, and taking a phone call is rather vulgar. Are there any foolproof excuses I’ve missed?

— C.U.S., London W2

A. How about sudden sharp intake of breath, then ‘Oh my goodness! Sorry, I must go and hide — my first boyfriend/girlfriend has just walked in. Will you excuse me?’ Cringe as you head for a more densely packed section of the party.

Q. Is one expected to try to make conversation with pre-teen children? I have no children of my own but often meet the children of friends and cannot think what to say to them since obviously we have nothing in common except their parents, whom I can hardly discuss. Can you give any guidance?

— B.A., London W8

A. It boosts a child’s morale to be asked for insights from the world of childhood. Resist the temptation to use a patronising tone as you employ the opening gambit ‘What’s your favourite subject at school?’ This topic can be drawn out indefinitely as the child explains his or her preferences, and you can participate by summoning memories of being the same age.

Q. My husband has an annoying habit of drinking from very thin-rimmed wine glasses. He insists these are washed by hand but refuses to do it himself. Recently I tried putting them in the machine, but he claimed there was a faint taste of detergent and that it had ruined a very expensive glass of wine. How should I proceed, as I find it too tiresome to wash them by hand?

— S.H., Woodborough

A. Perhaps your dishwasher needs to be upgraded. A wine-collecting member of my advisory panel writes: ‘All decent dishwashers have a serious rinse cycle these days and a machine wash is more likely to get rid of all the suds than handwashing. Moreover, the glasses are less likely to break in the dishwasher than if handled.’

Q. May I offer an alternative solution to your Cotswolds hideaway reader whose weekends are spoiled by unwelcome post? (6 May). I suffered the same issue at our retreat in Highclere, until I changed the admin address of all our utility bills etc to our London address. Now I enjoy my Spectator and other periodicals without the stress of unwanted admin.

— P.D., London SW11

A. Thank you for this tip.