Mary Killen 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

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.,

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