Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 2 August 2018

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Q. My husband doesn’t wash his hands after spending a penny and he doesn’t wash his hands after ‘spending tuppence’, as my grandmother put it, either. I know this as he uses the downstairs gents while I am hard by in the kitchen and I can monitor all the appropriate liquid sounds. When I was driven to raise it a few years ago he said: ‘Don’t be silly, I don’t defecate on my hands.’ I am aware that some men think it’s common to wash hands (in the Lords I heard they put washbasins in the men’s conveniences only within the past 50 years). Thoughts?

— N.F., London W6

A. You are correct that it was considered common to wash hands after ‘only handling one’s own member’ as decreed by the late Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk. However, spending tuppence is quite another matter. Why not solve this problem by investing in an electronic door-locking mechanism which can be linked to the door of this off-kitchen convenience? Such a device would be programmed to release the occupant only after sensing that soap dispenser and taps have first been triggered. 

Q. What is the correct etiquette on providing house guests with electricity for their electric cars? At our place in England, we maintain the tradition, started by my grandfather, of having our guests’ cars washed and filled up before their departure. However, a number of guests have indicated that this year they will be bringing Teslas to our remote Scottish lodge in August. The problem is that our electricity runs on a generator, which is enormously expensive. I do not wish to be considered ‘tight’ or inhospitable, but would it be in order to either refuse, or ask them to make a contribution?

— Name and address withheld

A. It would be a shame to tamper with this family tradition. However you can cut down the costs with a preemptive cheerful email to ‘undisclosed recipients’ to make it clear that you’re not singling out any particular guest. ‘Due to the strain of running our unpredictable generator in such a remote location please will greener guests driving electric cars take the precaution of arriving as fully charged as possible!’ In this way you move the focus of the problem from the cost of the generator to its unreliability.

Q. A friend lets me have a room in his rather wonderful house in London at a peppercorn rent. However, he often walks into my room while I’m on the phone and asks to whom I am talking and what the other person is saying. How can I put a stop to this without endangering my own luxurious tenancy?

— Name and address withheld

A. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Simply don’t make or receive calls when your patron is on the premises.