Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary, from Joanna Lumley: what do you get someone who insists they don’t want a present?

Getty Images

From Henry Blofeld

Q. The other day I went to an all-male dinner party of about 20 people in a highly respectable club. I spent the first few minutes shaking hands with most of the other people there and was horrified to find that quite a number of them kept their left hands in their trouser pockets while I did so. I was brought up to believe that this is extremely discourteous and I think it looks so sloppy. I have no idea what the official etiquette is, but I am delighted to have been given the chance to find out. What do you think, Mary?

A. The official etiquette? It is extremely bad manners to keep one hand in a pocket during an introduction – the atavistic reason being fear of a concealed weapon. Younger men may well have been influenced by images of the American actor George Clooney, who routinely keeps his left hand in his pocket during red-carpet Hollywood events.

From Joanna Lumley

Q. What would you consider an acceptably tiny present for people who have everything and say they want nothing for Christmas? I can’t bear not giving anything; but maybe a paperback or a bar of soap might be too small. I am useless at baking so shall not attempt any home-baked goods, and my embroidery skills are pretty shabby so I shall not be able to initial a handkerchief. You always supply such wonderful solutions to problems, so please help me, Mary, in my hour of need. I suppose helium balloons are out of the question.

A. Helium balloons are a charming idea but can terrify dogs. Instead give an exquisitely wrapped mini-package of a sheet of first-class stamps – perhaps the special edition called River Wildlife? You can buy 25 of these for £31.25. Every civilised person needs stamps and yet they are so difficult to remember to buy.

From Nigel Havers


Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in