Mary Killen

Dear Mary: How do we tell our interior designer relative we don’t want her doing up our house?

Dear Mary: How do we tell our interior designer relative we don’t want her doing up our house?
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Q. I’ve just completed a six-month paid internship for a hedge fund manager. I was mostly in his private office helping with personal matters, as well as researching investments. He has written me a glowing reference which should carry a lot of weight, as he is a prominent figure in the financial world. However it has been handwritten and — something I was unaware of — his grammar and spelling are awful. Mary, he is rather scary and I don’t feel I can ask him to edit it, but I worry this invalidates the cachet of being able to present the reference to future employers. What should I do?

— A.C.D., London W11

A. On the contrary, the reference has more cachet with its errors intact. Potential employers will be fascinated to see how illiterate a successful rival can be. They will read the endorsement many more times than once. The sense of superiority it will give them will make them conflate you with pleasure and thereby increase the likelihood of your being hired.

Q. My husband and I have bought a ‘wreck’ in the West Country that needs to be totally modernised and redecorated. A close family member is an interior designer and will expect to be given the huge project, but there is not one assignment of hers that we have liked. Mary, how can we take on someone with similar ideas to us without causing a family rift?

— Name and address withheld

A. Explain to your relative that the builders have their own interior designer who they like to work with for streamlining purposes. Since you rather like this designer’s work, you are prepared to comply, not least because it will cut costs considerably.

Q. Your highlighting the importance of signalling to carers that others are looking out for their charges (Dear Mary, 31 July) is so very apt. After 40 years as a doctor, I’ve learnt that nothing encourages and ensures excellent care so much as a steady stream of visitors, cards and phone calls. Without them, care, probably unconsciously, descends to neglect.

— Dr P.E.C., by email

A. Thank you for sharing this frontline observation.

Q. Let A.H. (Dear Mary, 31 July) buy shirts in the USA and receive them quickly in the UK without relying on friends or family. A simple, efficient service is offered by He creates a postal address in California or Oregon (no sales tax). The ordered shirts can be sent there and consolidated for shipment to the UK. The cost is certainly less than the emotional burden created by the possibly hormone-induced forgetfulness of a pregnant cousin.

— B.W., by email

A. Many thanks for this tip.