Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 29 December 2016

Also in Dear Mary: should we install ‘Turkish’ lavatories to discourage unwelcome guests? How to quiet next door’s children

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Q. Our first Christmas card arrived on 2 December and it was a lovely thing — a Burne-Jones angel musician, finely printed, paper inner lining and sent first-class in a franked envelope with an immaculate printed label.Unfortunately, the signature was just a large and meaningless felt-tip flourish; no address, no other clue except ‘Season’s Greetings’, which may hint at someone with an international list. While we still maintain our fading Christmas card habit, we would not want to give unwitting offence by not reciprocating. What do you advise, Mary?

— P.W., address withheld

A. Your letter has only just reached my hands. My advice will be too late to employ but as this is an annually recurring problem I will issue it anyway so readers can bear it in mind for next year. Since you are keen to maintain your Christmas card habit I suggest you cope with the nuisance by taking a pompous advert in the Times personal column thanking whoever it was who sent the beautiful card with an illegible signature and asking for their forgiveness in not reciprocating. In this way, old friends who see the advert will be prompted to send you cards themselves when they might otherwise not have bothered, and therefore your hoard will be enhanced.

Q. My wife and I live in a large house with excellent transport links to central London. Vague acquaintances often ask to stay for longish periods. Only half in jest, my wife suggests that we could discourage them by replacing our lavatories with the Turkish kind that one sometimes encounters on campsites abroad. Congenial guests would be invited to use the European facilities, accessible via our bedroom. Can you recommend any suppliers of Turkish-style toilets in the UK? Or suggest less drastic solutions?

— t.s.c., London N4

A. There is no need to go to this absurd trouble to put people off. All you need to do is claim that all the lavatories are out of order except the one off your own bedroom, which they will be welcome to use. This would be enough to put off most people.

Q. I live with my family in a terraced house in London. Unfortunately, new neighbours are renting with their extremely noisy toddlers. I am attempting to revise for my A-levels next year but this is impossible, given the racket in the garden and through the walls. How should one go about politely asking the parents to quieten their offspring?

– O.S, London SW17

A. Advertise for a childminder, then when the replies flood in, go next door with the details, saying the toddlers you were expecting as guests will not now materialise and you wondered if the neighbours be interested in following up the leads, since they clearly need help themselves?