Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 20 July 2017

Also in Dear Mary: protecting your fruit crop from a hungry house-sitter and the trouble with a British Brexit calendar

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Q. Last summer a friend of my brother-in-law’s house-sat for us while we were in Greece for a week. We paid him £25 a day and all he had to do was look after our dog and water the garden when necessary. I left food for him, including fruit, in our fridge. Mary, I say including fruit because, to my annoyance, when we got back we found he had stripped my raspberry canes of every single raspberry and eaten most of our figs. Because we couldn’t find anyone else he is returning this year and it might sound feeble but I just can’t tell him not to help himself. What can I do?

— C.J., Chagford, Devon

A. Buy a harmless food dye in navy blue and spray the produce before you go. Leave notices adjacent announcing: ‘Fungicide trial in place. Do not disturb fruit.’

Q. I recently joined Instagram and was flattered and moved to see how quickly I have gathered followers — as of today I have over 200. Since many of these are really old friends of 40 years or more, who I never get to see, it is a brilliant way to keep in touch with each other and share news. My problem is that, although I have posted 16 images of genuinely amazing (no swanks) things going on in my life, I’m averaging only 22 likes per post. Mary, how should I interpret this disappointing feedback?

— Name and address withheld

A. Unless you’re selling something and your Instagram account is designed to drive commercial traffic, you must restrain your impulse to post. Most Instagram users are already suffering from amazement fatigue, and even when friends are well disposed towards one rather than envious, there is such a thing as too much stimulation. You must put up a maximum of five posts a week.

Q. With regard to security gates, I can’t think of an insurance company insisting on them, but many people like to blame their insurers for all sorts of vulgarity. Don’t forget that humble farmers like us have to have our modest electronic gates as cattle grids are not trustworthy. (As a common little self-made man I long to have massive gates with coats of arms, but my aristocratic wife says that would be vulgar and likes our battered wooden gates.)

— Name and address withheld

 A. Many thanks for your key refinement of my pronouncement.

 Q. As a proud Brexiteer, I was recently gifted a great British Brexit calendar. The kind giver is a regular visitor to my home, but my son is an avid Corbyn supporter and Remoaner. Where can I display it in the house without instigating mayhem?

— G.B London 

A. You should not provoke disharmony in the home. Keep the calendar within your personal wardrobe or bathroom.