Q. I have regularly stayed with a hospitable friend in London but now hesitate to invite myself. She is seventy-something with a bad back and no help but always provides me with an immaculately presented bed and refuses to let me help with its preparation and dismantling. I bring presents but feel these are small succour set against the physical work my visits subject her to. What do you suggest?
— O.G., Bourton-on-the-Water
A. You might offer to keep, by agreement, a discreet parcel of two single sheets and pillowcases in a cupboard at your friend’s house. In such a sheath, you can slide into any ready-made bed which it suits her to offer you and make minimal impact. Moreover you can bring a change of sheets when you see fit. Make it clear that the responsibility of deciding when to launder now rests with you. You might also look at the website www.thegoodguest.com, which carries the same concept to a deluxe finish. Here you can view a selection of well-made ‘indoor’ sleeping bags in tasteful designs featuring high thread counts, linen and sea island cotton, and an insulation which is the washable equivalent of goosedown.
Q. Further to your query from A.C. (7 February), I have recently moved house and now avoid the annoyance of being addressed by my first name by service providers by having all my accounts under the name of Mrs [initials followed by surname]. It usually works, but doesn’t solve the problem of being asked ‘How are you today?’ I am sure most older readers find this line of questioning both impertinent and tiresome.
—J.P., Stratford upon Avon
A. Thank you for sharing this useful tip. Regarding the impertinence of being asked how you are, you might turn this nuisance to your advantage by taking the inquiry at face value. Answer, ‘How kind of you to ask. Actually I would be fine but I’ve been driven mad this morning trying to remember the recipe for seed cake/what’s on at my local cinema/find an antonym for the word “specious”. Can you help at all? Could you google it for me while we are talking?’
Q. Further to your correspondence on the repelling of unsought night-time visitors, may I share a ruse told to me by the late and much lamented Jeremy Sandford, author of Cathy Come Home? When concerned that he might find himself the target of unwanted nocturnal attention, he simply put the pillows at the wrong end of the bed and slept this way around. A night visitor who tiptoed into his unlit room was so nonplussed to find herself face to face with his feet that she disappeared at once, never to return.
— C.C.,Pershore, Worcs
A. Thank you for supplying this charming vignette.