Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 6 February 2010

Your problems solved

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Q. On a recent visit to France, I met an old acquaintance from our village in England in the local market town. She invited me back to see her house and we went out to dinner that night and upon our return it became obvious that her intentions were amorous. Resisting her advances, I priggishly insisted on my own room for the night and retired to have a bath. The next morning I discovered that my treasured watch, left to me by my father, had disappeared from the bathroom, where I had left it the night before, beside my car keys, which were still there. Sadly the woman has form. She once removed a fax machine from a mutual friend’s house while he was away on holiday. Mary, how can I get my watch back, without actually having to call the woman a thief?

Name and address withheld

A. Confront the woman pleasantly. Tell her excitedly that ‘the most extraordinary thing has happened’. Explain that you could not think where your treasured watch had gone and was bitterly mourning its loss. Suddenly you remembered that your insurers had made you install a minuscule satellite tracking chip. You rang them up and, phew! They were able to trace the watch to her house in France! Isn’t modern technology astounding! By surprising her in this way, you will deny her the chance of ascertaining whether or not watches can have satellite tracking devices installed. If she is innocent she will offer to undertake a full forensic search of the house. If guilty she will fall into the trap of saying something like, ‘Well it’s not there any more’ or ‘But I brought it back to England’. In either case you will be well on the way to recovering your watch.

Q. Arranging a dinner party recently, I invited a close friend and his highly able and intelligent but much younger girlfriend. They have not flaunted their relationship as they are concerned — quite unjustifiably in my view — about how some might react to their age difference. A more senior work colleague of hers is also on my guest list. Now my close friend wonders whether his girlfriend should come, despite the fact that I suspect the senior colleague probably would not bat an eyelid at the liaison (and I suspect she knows about it already). How can I defuse this situation so everyone can enjoy a happy evening? I am minded to broach the issue casually with the senior work colleague, whom I know well and trust, but is it for me to interfere?

Name and address withheld

A. Do not interfere or deny the couple the thrill of discretion. Besides, were their ‘outing’ to be fast-forwarded, before they are ready, they might feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. By contrast, if other guests merely suspect an existing or incipient liaison, you will add mystery and excitement to your dinner party.

Q. Every day I receive up to six email ‘jokes’ from friends in the village. Some are even short films, and most are not very funny. Without hurting their feelings, how do I get them to stop inundating me with these messages?

Name and address withheld

A. Put a brake on them by forwarding back, say, the most recent ten, with a note saying you had inexplicably found them in your trash box marked ‘Spam’. Please can they always send personal messages separately. You would hate to miss a message because your computer had sent it directly to trash along with the jokes. You will soon see an end to these nuisances.