Mary Killen

Dear Mary: Are my party chairs safe for fatties?

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Q. With just a month to go of training as a primary school teacher, I am relieved and excited to have been offered a job. Now it has been a few weeks since I last spoke to one of my good friends in our PGCE cohort. I have many lively stories to tell of weird and wonderful escapades with wild children. However, I feel I should not call her, since I cannot be sure that she has been offered a post.

— J.C.R.R., London SE11

A. Your tact is misplaced and you should call with your news. To be weirdly silent about it suggests your presumption that your fellow student is unlikely to be employed. Do you think Renée Zellweger doesn’t dare ring up Julia Roberts to tell her about her latest part, in case Julia hasn’t got one and would be jealous? It is much more patronising not to ring.

Q. My 22-year-old son wants to invite a gang of friends for the weekend. I know they are bound to come trickling down for breakfast between 11.45 a.m. and 12.45p.m., thus getting in the way of the cooks who are trying to make lunch. It seems inhospitable to say they can’t have coffee or cereal (even if they are just about to tuck into a full Sunday lunch) but I don’t think I can tour the various bedrooms of 22-year-olds nagging them to get up earlier. How can I get them to have finished breakfast by, say, 11 a.m., while still making them feel welcome?

— L.G., Fosbury

A. When showing the youths their quarters on arrival, say in a matter-of-fact way, ‘Now the breakfast kitchen closes at 11 a.m. Would anyone like a wake-up call?’ They will all say yes. Greet those who still miss the deadline with ‘Poor you! You’ve missed breakfast. You will have to go straight on to Pimm’s!’ as you hand them a glass. In this way you keep them out of the kitchen at ‘rush hour’ without breaching hospitality codes.

Q. I bought at auction a job lot of 1960s gold party chairs, but many of my friends are now much fatter than typical partygoers of that period. Is there a way of finding out how much weight a gold party chair can take?

— Name withheld, London W8

A. Bentleys Entertainment supremo Peregrine Armstrong Jones advises, ‘Although there are no EU or UK standard weight loadings for these chairs, even with their slender legs you can trust them to carry the weight of any bulky guest. Your reader’s worries are unnecessary, though, for another reason. Experience tells us that, upon sighting the delicate frame of a banqueting chair, a fat person will typically ask, “Will I fit on that chair, do you suppose?” at which point your reader can produce one of her own dining-room chairs (preferably one with arms for more stability in extreme cases) to calm the situation.’