Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 27 April 2017

Also in Dear Mary: marquees are out, beer and crisps are in at Eton’s Fourth of June; how to make black cabs affordable

Dear Mary | 27 April 2017
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Q. New colleagues invited us to lunch but didn’t warn us that the clippings had not been cleared up from a blackthorn hedge that lines their private drive. The next day we had two flat tyres. With established friends we would ring up and give them an earful, but we don’t know how this couple (who seem a bit humourless) would take it. However, we don’t think they should get away scot free — not least because their other guests might well suffer. What do you suggest?

— Name withheld, Aberystwyth

A. Ask them back. And when they next invite you to lunch accept gratefully, upon the stipulation that they collect you from the top of their drive, where you will leave your car parked. Only at this point, when they ask ‘why’ can you mention the blackthorn heads having caused you a puncture.

Q. Our son is in his first year at Eton. His best friend tells me that for the Fourth of June his parents have purchased a large awning which his father will attach to the back of their Range Rover. I asked the father of another boy what his plans were and his reply was something like ‘one thing’s for sure... we won’t be parking anywhere near those awful oiks with their marquees’. I’m unsure now as to what is and what isn’t acceptable. Can you help?

— Name and address withheld

A. It is now smart to be as low-key as possible at the Fourth of June. Neither Range Rovers, awnings nor marquees are acceptable (especially when the latter are erected by bodyguards and staffed by professional chefs and butlers wielding champagne). As parents, you should aspire to arrive in something like a Volvo estate. Eat a simple picnic (cucumber sandwiches with beer and crisps for example, perhaps with a thermos of soup). Eat this out of the back of the raised boot with pop-up chairs for other parents and picnic rugs for the Etonians.

Q. I take issue with your decree that we should support black cabs. Some of us can’t afford them. Last time I took a cab from St James’s Street to the Albert Hall I paid £35, because the traffic was at a standstill but the meter just kept rolling on. Once you have ordered an Uber, by contrast, the price quoted stays the same no matter what. Much as I applaud the drivers’ ‘knowledge’, with London traffic as it is, I just can’t take the risk of using a black cab.

— J.F., London SW12.

A. There has been a fightback from the world of black cabs. There is now a smartphone app called Gett which will quote you a fixed fare. For heritage reasons you should try it first. If it starts to rain, then some black cabs will turn off their Gett receptors and respond to pavement hailers. So prioritise the black cab, but in periods of peak demand or urgency you may revert to Uber.