Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 4 May 2017

Also in Dear Mary: how to dodge questions about your age; restoring an elderly aunt’s early-morning peace

Dear Mary | 4 May 2017
Text settings

Q. I have a very good cleaner who comes once a week. She is far more efficient than anyone I’ve had in the past. But recently she has begun taking off her shoes and socks at the front door and cleaning in her bare feet, which I find utterly disgusting. How do I ask her to stop this ritual without risking losing her? —M.L., London SW10

A. Leave verruca treatment creams in ‘recent use’ positions in your bathroom and walk around in bare feet yourself. With luck she will put two and two together. If not, allude to your ailment and suggest she puts on her footwear to avoid contamination.

Q. Is there a polite way to refuse to reveal your age? It’s not so much that I am coy or vain but, were I not in denial to myself of my advancing years, I don’t feel I could keep going in my line of fairly physically demanding freelance work. Normally I steer the conversation away, but what should I say if asked directly?

— Name and address withheld

A. You might take a tip from the late ‘Fat Lady’ Jennifer Paterson, who cooked Spectator lunches among other assignments. No one was offended when she deflected age enquiries with the response: ‘I never give my age, darling. It’s bad for business.’

Q. At my much-loved Cotswolds hideaway, intended to deliver relaxation, I feel a low-grade stress each week on seeing the heap of post always waiting on my doormat. I know domestic and social admin are part and parcel of owning any property, but I have begun to dread my arrival there on Friday nights.

— P.T., London W8

A. Another reader finds his mood on arrival at his country house has dramatically improved since he switched the subscriptions to his favourite periodicals (The Spectator, Country Life, Oldie, etc) from his London address to his rural retreat. He now walks in to find a carpet of agreeable reading matter, whose physical bulk vastly overwhelms the petty social and administrative demands which have also arrived.

Q. The lady occupant of the flat above my aunt’s has refurbished it and replaced the bedroom carpet with woodblock flooring. Now my aunt is woken each day by her neighbour’s alarm. Under the terms of the leases, any installation of hard flooring should be accompanied by insulation, but it appears this was not done. Both ladies are in their nineties and get on well, so my aunt is loth to complain — except to me. What would you advise?

— Name and address withheld

A. You should appeal to the neighbour whose property abuts the lady horizontally. Even if he or she cannot hear the alarm clock, would they mind writing a letter to complain that they can? In this way the two old ladies can remain friends.