Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 22 June 2017

Also: neglected by the hostess of a dinner party and excellent audiobook tips

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Q. I import a range of very high-quality food products from Europe into the UK. They are regarded as the best in the market and have a well-proven record in European stores, but the buyer at a well-known ‘upmarket’ supermarket is elusive. When I try to get in touch, he claims to be busy and, in the last instance, dismissively advised me to send some samples with a business card. If I do that, I will have lost the opportunity for a meeting in which I could grab his attention.

— G.L., address withheld

A. Counter his mental laziness with a four-pronged attack. Let’s call your products the Coup de Gout range and the upmarket supermarket Primary Palate. Co-ordinate a widespread network of friends to ring the managers of their local branches of Primary Palate to request Coup de Gout products. A separate loyalty card-holding network should email Primary Palate to make the same request. Just 12 inquiries should be enough to require your buyer to look into Coup de Gout. Meanwhile, ask a journalist friend to interview the buyer for a trade magazine; they should enquire about Coup de Gout. Time your campaign to coincide with a week when a friend’s beady-minded child is serving as intern in the buyer’s office. Send your samples in during this time. All this should jolt the buyer out of his torpor.

Q. I was seated on the right of a young woman who had invited ten to dinner, but she kept jumping up and down to fuss over things in the kitchen, leaving me feeling spare as the people on either side of me were already talking. What should I have done?

— R.G., London W11

A. You could have issued a gentle reprimand by joining her each time she jumped up, saying: ‘I insist on helping you. Otherwise the others will feel awkward if I’m left on my own with no one to talk to.’

Q. Your correspondent who was asking for suggestions for reading matter for his blind father (3 June) might like to know of the wonderful Talking Books service provided completely free of charge by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. All details are on their website. It proved a real blessing to my mother in the last years of her life.

— E.H., by email

A. Thank you for this tip.

Q. In answer to the question of obtaining audiobooks at little or no cost, I have found much entertaining listening on, a website where anyone can record themselves reading any book or poem that is out of copyright, for others to listen to for free. The vast variety of accents is part of the charm. I have also found a good stock of audiobooks in my local library, though this is presumably dependent on your location.

— E.K., London N1

A. Thank you — particularly for the marvellous news of LibriVox.