Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 23 February 2017

Plus: sleeping with the radio, dealing with a spittle-flecked dinner, tipping removal men

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Q. I’ve listened to the radio to deal with insomnia for years (Dear Mary, 18 February) and your suggestion of single earphones does not work well. They hurt your ear — when they haven’t fallen out of it. The answer is either a Roberts Radio Pillow Talk speaker (flat, sits under pillow, clearly audible through pillow) or a Sound Asleep Speaker Pillow (haven’t tried myself but has 49 good reviews on Both cost £14.99.—F.C., Newbury.

A. Thank you for sharing your findings.

Q. Our 15-year-old daughter has, on paper, nothing to complain about. We both love her passionately and have only her best interests at heart. Moreover, we live in some luxury in the heart of a district of London considered cool by teenagers. Nevertheless, she is impossible to be around, snapping our heads off at the slightest pretext. (We’ve ruled out drinks or drugs and she doesn’t have an eating disorder.) She’s not an only child, so that’s not the problem. (Her siblings are still happily at the boarding school she insisted we let her leave.)We realise the moodiness may be hormone-related and will pass, but in the meantime, Mary, what do you advise?

— Name and address withheld

A. London is pullulating with attractive male undergraduates with nowhere to live after their first year in halls. Recruit an appropriate young man and invite him to pay a peppercorn rent to live in one of your other siblings’ bedrooms during term time. You will find that, once there is a ‘fanciable’ witness living on site, the domestic atmosphere will improve dramatically.

Q. I’m extremely fond of an elderly relation who likes me to give him lunch in my club when he’s in London. I enjoy his company enormously, but as the years have passed he’s become increasingly incontinent as regards the amount of saliva he expresses while talking. We always sit in the same bay window, which illuminates his spit vividly before it splatters on to my Dover sole. How should I tackle this, Mary?

— Name and address withheld

A. Arrange for the waiter to leave a small menu or the wine list propped in front of your plate. This will serve as a shield against the spittle. Explain your behaviour by saying that you are considering the pudding wines. Your relation will assume that you are trying to conceal the prices.

Q.  I have a van load of furniture coming over from Northern Ireland. The removal men are being paid handsomely. What is the etiquette on tipping them?

— M.W., Wilts

A. These men deserve £20 each for their efforts. It will be in your own interest to see the smiles on their faces as they trouser the notes.