Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 20 June 2019

Dear Mary | 20 June 2019
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Q. One of the members of our book club is particularly nosy and gossipy. I like this woman, but when it was my turn to host I had the lunch in our barn to pre-empt her snooping in the house. As soon as the barn loo was occupied, however, she began squirming and told us all she was desperate for the loo herself and couldn’t wait. Would I mind if she popped into the house? She took about ten minutes to come back (and she had her mobile with her, no doubt taking pictures). I was very cross with myself for having fallen for this trap. But how could I have said no?

— Name and address withheld

A. On these occasions it is useful to decide to tackle your moth problem (we all have them now) just before the guests arrive, using a smoking-out killer from Pest Control Direct. Not only do such products work (if you follow the instructions correctly) but you must vacate the property for four hours after lighting the wick. You can therefore tell nosy guests, with hand on heart, that it would be unsafe for them to enter the house.

Q. I often use a tip you published some years ago. Your correspondent had asked how, without resorting to shouting, to chase recalcitrant (and slightly drunk) dinner guests out of a drawing room and through to the dining room before their soufflés are spoiled. You advised simply turning off the lights in the drawing room. I find it always works a treat. However last weekend I attended a family wedding reception in Worcestershire where the same situation arose, except there was no question of turning lights off. It was still blazing sunlight on the lawn when waiters began asking the guests to move into the marquee for dinner. The guests seemed deaf to the repeated requests. The waiters were despairing. What could I have done to help?

— M.W., Pewsey

A. You might have plugged in a garden hose and started at the edge of the garden watering close to guests’ feet. No need to get anyone wet — as you moved systematically forward, you would have had the satisfaction of seeing the assembled company move like a flock of sheep towards the marquee, hardly noticing they had been effectively hosed in there.

Q. A summer drinks party is looming. My husband can’t miss it for professional reasons and I am expected to go with him. My problem is that although there will be a large number of people there, among them will be a terrible enemy of mine. We don’t speak to each other but the very sight of her will make me phobic. Any suggestions?

— Name and address withheld

A. You have not withheld your name from me and since I know you normally wear contact lenses, simply dispense with them on the night. This will blur your vision.