Mary Killen

Dear Mary: How can we avoid getting stuck with a useless cleaner?

Dear Mary: How can we avoid getting stuck with a useless cleaner?
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Q. We have moved house from north to south London. For me one of the chief pluses is that we no longer need to employ the same cleaner who has blighted my life for years by being useless. My wife, who is a soft touch, could never bring herself to sack the woman for fear of ‘hurting her feelings’. How can we avoid repeating the mistake (with going rates as much as £15 an hour)? We don’t know any of our new neighbours to ask for recommendations.

— B.B., London SW17

A. Advertise in a newsagent’s window. It is important to mention the hourly rate you are prepared to pay as potential cleaners will not make contact otherwise. Announce that you need a cleaner urgently — but possibly only for a few weeks — as your wife has a back injury and her movements are temporarily restricted. Audition those who apply in turn. If the cleaner is good, keep him or her in your employment. If bad, announce that your wife has now recovered her full physical repertoire and can do the work herself but thanks so much for helping out in the short term. Repeat the process till you find someone good.

Q. When a close and distinguished friend died last summer only 30 people could attend the funeral due to Covid. One of these — the most obvious one to do so, and a superb person himself — delivered a eulogy to the rest of us. In short, it was not good. Now I am helping to plan a proper memorial service for the many friends and admirers of this remarkable woman and the ‘most obvious’ person assumes that he will once again be delivering the eulogy. Given the disappointment of the funeral, we feel that he is not the right person to speak again, this time to 1,000 people. We want to replace him but what possible excuse can we give?

— Name and address withheld

A. Why not break with convention and plan to have five speakers — each speaking for only five minutes — in praise of the late distinguished woman? Let the ‘most obvious’ person give the first address as a way of highlighting his special status. By the time four other lively and pertinent speakers have delivered their own addresses, memories of the first one will have been diluted.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? My four sons drove me mad through all the years of their growing up by scraping their chairs back when leaving the table, producing a terrible screeching noise similar to that made by an old-fashioned duster on a blackboard. If only I had known sooner that felt chair caps, in both square and round shapes, are widely available at around £2 per unit. These have now been installed and I now longer need to cringe when entertaining my (now grown-up) sons.

— L.G., Wilts

A. Many thanks for this tip.