Q. I have recently become a widow. Since my son is away at university, I had the idea of charging a modest rate to informally rent out his bedroom to friends and friends of friends who happen to need a bed in the city for a night. I include dinner and breakfast in the rate but can still make a much-needed profit. My problem is that some charming friends of friends have booked in twice and want to make it a regular thing, but they insist on taking me out for a slap-up dinner at a smart restaurant in lieu of the small payment. I don’t think they are remotely aware of my delicate financial situation. Any ideas about how I can tactfully put the record straight, Mary? I very much enjoy their company but that’s beside the point. I need the cash.
— H.W., Edinburgh
A. Explain to these new friends that, as much as you loved the generous dinners, the money from the room rental is now an arrangement between you and your son, and he is the beneficiary of the rent. Thus, much as you appreciate their gesture, your hands are tied.
Q. I live in a country village and have a wonderful cleaner. She is young, friendly, interested, willing to come in and water plants when I’m away, and thoughtful. What she isn’t any good at is cleaning. After two years my house has never been filthier, in spite of me hoovering up the cobwebs and dusting skirtings, window ledges etc. I know she’s cleaning while she’s here, because I hear the vacuum, but much as I love her I need a proper cleaner. My husband has developed a cough from the dust. Mary, how do I get rid of her without upsetting her, in the knowledge that I will continue to see her round and about as she works for various neighbours?
— Anonymous, Wiltshire
A. Tell everyone locally, including your cleaner, that in desperation you have concluded that the only certain way to keep fit would be to start cleaning your own house, stretching and carrying loads up and down stairs etc. As you say it is already filthy, an extra month or so without cleaning will not make a huge difference to you. Then, when you know she has found a new cleaning job, you can ‘admit defeat’ and appoint an efficient replacement.
Q. A creative couple invited us to stay in their country cottage. We loved it there but our bed linen was definitely not clean. They are extremely sociable and probably do not have the time or inclination to keep changing sheets. They have asked us again. I don’t want to seem ungrateful but how do I address this unsavoury situation?
— G.H.L., Shropshire
A. Say nothing. Simply bring your own sheets in a discreet bag and replace them with the pre-soiled ones when you leave