Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 30 June 2012

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Q. My parents are giving a drinks party for me in our garden which, as all my friends know, is quite big. People also know my parents are very generous and laid back so my worry is that some if not all of the single men on the guest list will assume it is OK for them to rock up with a girl in tow. But I have too many single girls coming as it is. How, without coming over as pompous or predatory, can I tactfully ask these single men not to bring someone? Equally, without seeming desperate, how can I check they are even coming in the first place? Most of them have not bothered to answer.

— Name and address withheld

A. A few days beforehand, text these men asking them to let you know whether they can come. Say that for ‘boring security reasons’ their names must be on the door or they will not get in. They will assume celebrities or royals must be among the guests. If they ask, just say coyly, ‘I can’t answer that.’ This will deter them from casually extending largesse by proxy, so they will be available to flirt with your girl friends instead.

Q. I wish to buy some of the pants with pockets that you recommended some months ago — for my daughter, who is about to set off on her gap year. Can you supply details?

— M.W., London SW3

A. It seems that, despite my warnings, no underwear giant has yet had the sense to knock up a range of these retroknickers. In the days of kneesocks, schoolgirls kept money and hankies in pocketed perma-knickers. Usually navy in hue, these were worn over a pair of lightweight white pants which were changed daily. The advent of tights, in the 1960s, put paid to kneesocks and therefore to pants with pockets, for which there is still an obvious need in temperate climes. A bare-legged gap-year girl would find the secret pocket more practical than a dangling handbag bursting with valuables, whose straps could be too easily slashed by a bag thief’s knife. 

The good news is that the haberdashery department at Peter Jones can supply iron-on security pockets for £4.20. The ‘Poche anti-vol’ is made by Prym. At 14cm by 20cm, it can easily accommodate passport, cash and cards and can be zipped shut. Iron one into a pair of perma-pants for your daughter. Add a few hand stitches to strengthen. 

Q. I am giving a lunch with ten tables each seating eight, but last time I did this some people swapped their place cards and others just did not turn up. (These are clients, not friends.) What do you recommend? 

— W.V., London SW12

A. Allow free mixing by having waiters bring round a series of tiny dishes which can be eaten standing up — but also have tables, so that those who have bonded can sit down together.