Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 22 February 2018

Also: Shooting etiquette, and a brilliant way to reduce complaining

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Q. Obviously one is delighted to have visits from close friends and family when one’s spouse is ailing, but how does one politely deter those in what might be called the second division who, mindful of the Bible’s teaching, are intent on visiting the sick, when the sick and his wife would rather be left alone and only wish for supportive emails promising thoughts and prayers? Visitors require feeding and watering, which entails shopping trips and general labour in the form of tidying the house and getting in flowers etc. They need meeting off trains and taking to the station and the whole enterprise causes great stress when one is reeling from shock and exhaustion.

— Name and address withheld

A. You can kindly discourage the second division by responding to their overtures with an insistence that you know it would accelerate the recovery of the patient far more if he were able to look forward to visiting them in their own homes. Say ‘Let’s wait till the weather is better and he is feeling stronger.’ This should put them off, but they will still feel they have discharged their responsibility.

Q. My wife and I are lucky enough to be able to invite guests shooting at home each year. We generally invite them to shoot during the day followed by dinner in the evening. Sometimes my friends reply that they’d love to come shooting but are already busy in the evening. I don’t want to fall out with them but find this behaviour difficult. Am I unreasonable to find this picking and choosing irritating and, if not, how best to nip it in the bud?

— Name and address withheld

A. You are not unreasonable to find it irritating but if you especially want them to ‘shoot and stay’ then you are unreasonable in failing to decree that if they can’t come to the dinner, they can’t come at all. Next year give adequate notice of your dates. If you still have leavers, weed them out by telling them you will ask them again next year and hope that by the time the date comes round they will have the evening free, but for this year you need those who can participate in the full event. You should not take the unavailability personally. Desirable people need to be booked for this sort of thing many months in advance. Others in your position are happy to bulk out the numbers at dinner with non-shooting guests.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? This year my wife and I decided to give up complaining for Lent. So far it is working very well. We fine ourselves £1 each time we lapse, and we compete with each other with two separate jam jars of coins sitting in the kitchen to signal our rival success rates.

— R.O., Pimlico

A. Thank you for sharing this tip. There is no need to wait for Lent next year. Negative-thinking readers will find benefit in following your lead immediately.