Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 25 August 2012

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Q. My wife is known to run a very well-organised house. As a consequence, weekend guests often arrive without the right kit, assuming they can go and raid our boot room and borrow something belonging to one of our (seven) children rather than weighing themselves down with heavy boots and coats et cetera for their journey. My wife does not mind them doing this, but I do — it is the presumption that I mind. What do you suggest, Mary?

— Name and address withheld

A. Retrain the miscreants by mislaying the key to the boot room and instead offering them ‘pop-up’ raincoats fashioned from heavy duty garden refuse sacks or bin bags with holes scissored out for the head and arms. Let them undergo the indignity at least once before you find the key again. In this way a more desirable attitude of gratitude will be seen to emerge.

Q. I recently attended Mass in Austria and felt uncomfortable not being able to speak German. I felt self-conscious not taking part since it would not be clear to others that I was English. Should I have moved my lips as though I was saying something?

— R.O., Sittingbourne, Kent

A. You should have just said whatever you would normally be saying at that point of the Order of Service, but said it in English and in a low voice.

Q. I have a good and genuine friend whose companionship I value. He is great fun and could definitely be relied on were my wife or I to need support in a crisis. He does, however, seem to think it is perfectly normal that he has become enslaved by his mobile phone. No matter where he is or what he is doing, answering his mobile always takes priority over everything else. Even when he is in mid flow over dinner, he will stop talking abruptly, read a text, answer it, and leave the rest of us hanging for about five minutes, at which point he resumes talking again, picking up where he left off, without any reference to the interruption. None of us would mind if these calls or texts were of a critical nature and demanded immediate attention, but they seem to be from casual contacts and with no need for the instant responses he regards as vital at the time. How can the problem be dealt with without risking the friendship we all value?

—Name and address withheld

A. Address his problem in a non-accusatory way by asking him to go to lunch somewhere where you know that mobiles are either forbidden or there is no signal. Say beforehand, ‘the only trouble is that you won’t be able to use your mobile. Will that be a problem for you? Or can you manage without it for a few hours?’ In this way you can pleasantly force him to confess to the insecurities which are causing this Pooterish urge to maintain constant contact.