Mary Killen

Dear Mary: How do I cope with university flatmates who can’t cook?

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Q. For many years I employed around 60 people with whom I worked in an open-plan office. I moved on from this role, but in my social life I often come across some of these former colleagues and although I can vividly remember my sentiments towards them, I sometimes cannot put a name to their faces. This facial amnesia is no reflection of the degree of respect or fondness I feel towards them, but nevertheless it looks and feels bad that I cannot remember their name immediately. It is especially difficult when someone else joins our conversation because of course I cannot introduce them. As soon as I have the name everything falls into place. What do you recommend, Mary?

— Name and address withheld

A. Download the link to an interesting new podcast before you go socialising. As soon as a familiar face heaves into view and asks how are you are, say that you’ve been laughing about/are excited by a podcast you’ve been listening to on the way to the party, then bring out your iPhone and ask for their email address so you can forward the link to them.

Q. I have been invited to a White Tie and Tiara ball. I have a fabulous dress, but the trustees will not let me take the family tiara out of the bank for the night as the insurance premium will be too high. How can I indicate to other people, without seeming to be overcompensating, that I do have access to a tiara but it’s in the bank?

— Name and address withheld

A. The Buckingham Palace gift shop has a charming replica of one of the Queen’s tiaras. It is indistinguishable from the real thing and costs £150. Why not purchase it as an investment? You can lend it out to friends for future events at a hire rate. When people admire it, be blithe about the fact you are wearing an ‘ironic tiara’ because you cannot afford the insurance for one night to take your own out of the bank vault. In its own way this will confer more financial status on you, if that is what you’re interested in.

Q. I’ve moved into a self-catering communal flat with some other students in my first year. My problem is that because it is a Scottish university they are a few years younger than I am, and none of them knows how to cook. I know but I can’t take on cooking for five others. Any tips?

— Name withheld, Glasgow

A. Frozen peas are an underrated food source. They’re extremely cheap, highly nutritious, filling, and ready to eat after three minutes on the ring. Eat them with mint and butter. Train yourself to devour a saucepan of them for lunch. You can be magnanimous and offer them to your flatmates too. And since the sight of a packet of frozen peas is unlikely to trigger the slavering impulse, your hoard will be eminently resistible until you cook it for them.