Mary Killen

Dear Mary: How do we stop friends dropping by without calling?

Dear Mary: How do we stop friends dropping by without calling?
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Q. Some years ago, much to the surprise of our many friends in London, my husband and I moved to a remote village in Wales. We have never regretted it and often enthused to others about the area. Now we have been taken by surprise since two friends have bought a house in our village, citing our happiness as the reason for their move. While we like this couple, we don’t know them terribly well and are worried they will expect to see an awful lot of us. Our biggest dread is that, since there is bad signal here, they will assume it is OK for them to drop in without ringing first. How, without seeming unfriendly, can we respectfully draw boundaries when they have moved in?

– R.M., Wales

A. Tell these people how thrilled you are about their imminent move. During the conversation imply that your husband ‘tends to get overexcited’ about new neighbours and burst into their houses without calling ahead. Explain laughingly that you will have to draw up a ‘privacy plan’ to make sure that your husband knows the rule is set in stone – despite being friends, neither of you will drop in on the other without ringing first.

Q. A colleague has allowed me to rent his country cottage for four weeks at a generous mate’s rate. The cottage itself is somewhat claustrophobic so I mainly wanted to come because of the glorious views of rolling downland from the garden. My problem is a shrub which has grown so high that the main view is obscured. I asked my colleague whether he would like me to prune the shrub for him but he replied that it is a Hebe ‘Midsummer Beauty’ and it would be wrong to prune before it had flowered. Although I am paying a low rent, by the time it has flowered my tenancy will be over. Any ideas, Mary?

– B.M., East Sussex

A. Get a pea net from your local garden centre, throw this over the shrub and peg it down like a tent while you are lounging. This will suppress the height of the foliage in a gentle way and the buds will survive to flower in a few weeks.

Q. My teenage daughter, like most of her generation, never calls me, only texts. In the days of voice calls, I would have been able to tell from the background noise whether she is really revising at a friend’s house or is in fact at a pub or nightclub. She lets me track her phone’s location, which does show her at the friend’s house, but I am suspicious that she may have a second phone. Mary, what should I do?

– Name and address withheld

A. Why not announce that every so often you will call her at random using FaceTime? In this way she will have to make sure her ‘background’ at all times is the one you expect to see.