Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 8 March 2008

Your Problems Solved

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Q. I share a student house with three others. My room is next to the kitchen and one of my housemates often eats lunch while surfing the net on my MacBook. Some of the keys have been gunked up with the effluent and spores from his meals but he is the landlord and I don’t really pay a market rate, but neither can I afford a new computer. Any suggestions?

Name and address withheld

A. Dissuade him from eating al desko by Sellotaping a piece of rotten fish to the underside of the laptop table. Explain that a general accumulation of your landlord’s food in the keyboard has caused the disgusting smell. Remain passive while your other flatmates express revulsion. When you go away for the weekend announce you are going to have the keyboard flushed out at great expense. Remove the fish at this time. When you return say, ‘Well, that cost a fortune so I’m going to have to impose a blanket ban. No one is allowed to eat at my laptop again.’

Q. Our wonderful home help from the Philippines, who has visited us twice a week for 18 years, appears to have declining eyesight, as she now often leaves grease marks on the ironing. She would be mortified if we commented. How can we bring this to her attention without causing an upset?

A.R., London W8

A. Your help may be unable to afford glasses. She may equally be nervous that a trip to the optician will elicit personal details that could be forwarded to bossy government agencies. She may also be in denial. Book and pre-pay for an eye test for yourself at a local optician for one of the days she comes to you. When she arrives, say a friend has treated you to an eye test that morning but you are too busy to go to the appointment. You do not wish to waste the optician’s time but he does not know you so please can she sit the test, using your name, date of birth and address. Later you can ring the optician asking him to remind you what the result of ‘your’ test was. If your suspicions are correct, you can confront her in the following pleasant way. Next time she comes, laugh conspiratorially as you say, ‘The optician rang up to say that I do need glasses but I left without ordering any. Do let me buy you a pair.’ You can then stump up the £160 average cost or, using the prescription, buy them from for a tenth of the price.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? Do not despair if you leave something in a London black taxi. The driver is obliged by law to drop the item at a police station or at the Transport for London Lost Property Office, 200 Baker Street, London NW1, and you have a very good chance of getting it back. Ring 0207 918 2000 to give details of your lost item. You will be emailed or telephoned if your property turns up and you can then collect it in exchange for a small administration fee.

F.W., Edinburgh

A. Thank you for this tip. As is widely known, virtually every one of London’s 35,000 black taxi drivers is totally honest. The three-year screening process ‘The Knowledge’, now under threat from Mr Livingstone, who feels it has been superseded by Sat Nav, filters out 99.9 per cent of those with criminal tendencies. The black taxi rapist of recent weeks is the exception which proves the rule.