Mary Killen

Dear Mary: How would you answer Radek Sikorski’s goose-stepping question?

Plus: Dealing with your ex-husband’s nits, and the terror threat to party invitations

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Q. In his Spectator notebook of 30 August, describing a recent gaudy at the Oxford college he attended in the l980s, Radek Sikorski asked, ‘Dear Mary, please help, what do you say when asked: “Do you remember goose-stepping in your jackboots across the Chapel Quad lawn at four in the morning?’’ Mary, may I press you for an answer?’

— L.P., London SW1

A. He might have best replied: ‘Nearly right. My goose-stepping — but your jackboots, surely?’

Q. I recently paid a fortune to a salon in Primrose Hill so that my ten-year-old daughter and I could be de-nitted. I am on good terms with her father but you can imagine my dismay when she went to stay with him and came back with a new infestation of these wretched supernits caught from the younger children he has with his second wife. If I have her de-nitted again, how can I tactfully ensure she is not reinfested during her next visit?

— J.L.D., London W1

A. Issue a mild rebuke by equipping your daughter with a wig to wear on visits to her father. Top Shop has a range of glamorous and affordable ones. Nits like wigs as well as real hair (it shows how stupid they are) but they can’t access the scalp through one. Put it out on a windowsill, as they did in Jane Austen’s day, for the birds to pick clean in time for her next visit. With any luck your former husband will find the wig so annoying and disconcerting that he will shell out to take his own household to the Primrose Hill salon as well.

Q. About 18 months ago, a friend from university wrote to me to tell me that a mutual acquaintance of ours (with whom I had not been in touch for some 20 years) had recently lost her husband to a rare illness and suggesting that I write to express my sympathy to her and her children. While I felt deeply sympathetic, since I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in such a long time, I felt that a note out of the blue might confuse her at a time of likely emotional upheaval. I have belatedly realised that I should have written. How can I now write to express sympathy while endeavouring to excuse the year and a half that it has taken me to do so?

— Name and address withheld

A. Don’t bother to excuse it. It is never too late to give someone something they will treasure. In some ways your good wishes will be even more welcome, coming as they do at a time when other sympathisers have ‘moved on’.

Q. What is the correct attitude to take when people say they cannot come to your London party because of the terror threat? — C.C., London W1

A. Be pleased. It means you can invite less weedy friends who have been on your conscience and entertain them instead.