Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 29 June 2017

Also in Dear Mary: How to stop house guests using your laptop and invading your kitchen

Q. We have friends to stay each year in Scotland and it’s always a pleasure. Guests know there is signal only in my dressing room, and that they should clear their decks electronically before coming. Yet every year, due to poor planning, people need to commandeer our laptop. The problem is they leave business flotsam and jetsam behind, when I feel they should leave it as they found it. A bossy notice is not in keeping with holiday spirit, so how can one make this point?
— N.M., Oxford

A. If this happens every year, it’s time for you to stop fretting. Simply order a cut-price spare laptop to serve guests’ purposes, put a password on your own, and let them fight about the flotsam and jetsam among themselves.

Q. What is the good-mannered response when presented with a magnificent décolletage at a social event? Obviously a gentleman should maintain eye contact during conversation, but so as not to appear a staring-eyed maniac, is the occasional downward glance permissible? When the owner has gone to some trouble, might it be impolite to fail to show appreciation?
— M.B., Norfolk

A. It is fairly obvious that the displayer of the assets requires them to be admired — even other women will be magnetised by them. Nevertheless, no man likes to be forced into the role of a Benny Hill-type lecher. You can clear the air at the outset by saying, with poker face, so as to reduce the flirtation quotient: ‘May I compliment you on your magnificent… dress? Will you forgive me if I become distracted by it from time to time? It won’t mean I’m not concentrating on what you are saying.

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