Mary Killen

Dear Mary: how do I alert my neighbour to my generosity?

Dear Mary: how do I alert my neighbour to my generosity?
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Q. We went for lunch over the bank holiday with the parents of one of my son’s schoolfriends. We had hardly talked to them before this. They and their friends were perfectly nice but my problem is that the slightly pushy wife kept photographing us. I am not on social media myself and had no idea she intended to put the photos all over her Instagram. For all sorts of reasons we are unhappy about the misleading impression these photos (and their captions) give of the degree of our friendship. Is there a tactful way of asking someone you don’t know that well not to post photographs of you on their social media? I can’t think how I could have done this at the time without seeming snobbish.

– Name and address withheld

A. Smile pleasantly while the person is snapping. Then add: ‘But can I beg you not to put anything up on social media? We loved lockdown so much we hardly ever go out now. We’ve been telling our friends we are still not socialising but if anything goes up online showing us having a great time with you then we will be inundated by people insisting we see them as well.’

Q. An old schoolfriend, who has become housebound, regularly invites me to dinner which we arrange ‘without husbands’. We have always enjoyed each other’s company but she is a tiny bit bullying and tries to prevent me from leaving at a reasonable time by pleading that ‘we have so much more to talk about’. This is true but, unlike her, I have to get up at seven each morning to go to work and her pressure means I rarely get home before midnight. I am consequently starting to dread our dinners.

– K.R.J., London SW4

A. Tell her that your husband has become neurotic about you getting home on your own, and that he is going to order a cab for you so he can track it. Arrange for the cab to arrive at your chosen hour. Apologise when you receive the alert that the cab is outside but be firm as you explain that you can’t possibly keep it waiting, especially since your husband has recently become ‘a tiny bit bullying’.

Q. A beautiful anthology of Suffolk writing has just been published. While the standard edition costs only £20, there is also a £100 special edition limited to 150 copies, bound in cloth with gold blocking on the front board, in a slipcase printed with a design of a Suffolk estuary by artist Jeff Fisher. I bought one for a dear neighbour who, though grateful to receive it as everyone locally is talking about the book, was clearly unaware of the extent of my generosity. How, without being crass, do I alert her?

– F.T., Spexhall, Suffolk

A. Prime a mutual friend and neighbour to gasp with envy when they see the book and gush about its exclusivity (and cost).