Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 24 September 2015

Plus: How to bypass friends politely at a party; and a teacher’s apostrophe muddle

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Q. I am an impoverished artist living in a famously cheap European city, largely for reasons of economy. I love it when friends and family relieve the monotony of lonely days in my garret by coming to stay, but every time anyone does they want to go to all the museums and galleries, which represents a serious outlay of money for me. Not to mention the restaurants. Given that I’ve been to all of these places umpteen times, how can I tactfully suggest that my guests go alone?

—Name and address withheld

A. Why not invent the existence of an art and restaurants club which allows residents of the city a certain number of discounted visits per month? When visitors suggest a visit to a museum or restaurant, explain that you have already used up your discounts for that month. This will help friends and family to focus on the fact that you have visited said museum or restaurant three times already that month and therefore another visit might be less thrilling, and that payment is obviously a problem if you cannot go to the restaurant without a discount being applied. ‘But do let us pay!’ they will insist. 

Q. The other night I arranged to meet my brother-in-law at a private view in Albemarle Street. I adore him but we have very few friends in common so it was important I should get there on time so he would have someone to talk to. Unfortunately I did not realise the new gallery, at no. 38, was upstairs rather than on the ground floor, and I consequently arrived 30 minutes late to see him standing alone in the far corner. I tried to go straight to him, but was assailed by enthusiastic friends, which delayed me further, and he looked accusing. How could I have ignored these old friends without being rude?

— M.W., Pewsey

A. In this situation,the important thing is not to let your pace slacken. As the friends swarm up, take them by their hands and pull them along with you, saying ‘Come and meet my brother-in-law!’ 

Q. I have noticed my new Year 6 teacher does not know the apostrophe rule; he constantly writes ‘the soldier’s were sprawled across the battlefield’ or things like that on the whiteboard. He normally just does blotchy dots in between the other letter and the s. What should I do? I don’t want to say something wrong and offend him, but I think he might confuse me this year. Thank you.

— ‘Max Bramwell’ (not my real name), age 10 (my real age)

A. Ask an aunt to send you a postcard which coincidentally includes the word ‘soldiers’. Show the card to the teacher and ask is your aunt right, or is he? Was he making deliberate mistakes to see if the class was concentrating? (In this way you can save his face.) In any case you are now confused about apostrophes so could he schedule a special lesson on them? This will give him time to bone up on the topic.