Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 3 September 2015

Plus: I caught an acquaintance stealing a child’s treasures

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Q. I am going on a late holiday with a group of people who are keen on nude swimming, which I am not. The owner of the house has said that the pool area is secluded, so there will be no stopping them. I don’t want to strip off myself, not least because I am 53 (which is the average age of the group). What excuse can I make without appearing staid?

— Name and address withheld

A. The peer pressure will be enormous, but you can resist it by announcing on day one that you will be staying in your costume. Adopt an encouraging tone as you reassure them all: ‘I’m sure it won’t happen to any of you but the fact is it has happened to me, so I’m slightly phobic… You see, once you’ve been stung by an insect internally, you never want to go without your bikini again.’

Q. I recently had dinner at the home of a dear friend, who has an adorable young daughter who delighted us before dinner with what the Americans call a ‘show and tell’ of her prized collection of crystal jewels. The star of this treasury was a sparkling faceted egg of the type commonly found at airport gift shops. Another very stylish, if at times eccentric, friend was present at the dinner and, in what seemed at the time an uncharacteristically maternal gesture, she offered to see the little girl up to bed and read her a story. When dropping off the style diva later, I saw her to her door. Here, as she fumbled in her vintage Birkin bag for her keys, I couldn’t help but notice a glint of crystal. I feel queasy at the thought of my young friend’s treasures being snatched by this klepto. How can I get her to return the trophy?

— H.B., New York

A. Why not buy another of the widely available sparkling gewgaws and present it to the klepto? Say ‘I couldn’t help noticing how much this little trinket delighted you. I wanted to make sure you owned one yourself.’ This gesture should shame her into returning the original. She could even pretend it had fallen into her bag by accident.

Q. How can I prevent people who come and stay from committing the crime of writing ‘comments’ in my visitors’ book? They don’t seem able to resist.

— S.H., Woodborough, Wilts

A. Visitors’ book owners are divided into two camps. The purists and traditionalists who shudder at the thought of gushing comments, rhymes, innuendoes etc, and those who innocently believe they are doing the host some kind of favour by supplying the latter. If you feel so strongly, then customise some picture mounting card so that only a signature-sized slit is available to write in. Stand over your guests sliding it down line by line. Bear in mind that your strict policy may backfire if you have a leading artist to stay. A sketch left in a visitors’ book by Hugh Buchanan recently sold for thousands.