Mary Killen

Dear Mary: Is my husband’s forgetfulness about fastening his flies costing us friends?

Dear Mary: Is my husband’s forgetfulness about fastening his flies costing us friends?
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Q. I was instrumental in finding some much-needed work for a local retired secretary/PA when I recommended her for the transcription of a handwritten historic archive which is owned by a friend. This woman once worked for me and I know her to be completely fastidious. Now she has confessed that her Mac has ‘lost’ or accidentally deleted the contents of the lengthy document she was working on — a week’s work. The helpline says there is nothing to be done. Her self-confidence has taken a huge knock. Would it be correct for me to pay for this work to be completed a second time, since I recommended her (and also because she is broke)?

— A.H., Edinburgh

A. How kind of you to have tried to help. Unfortunately it would be wrong for you to pay for her mistake as this would reduce her self-confidence further. However, the good news is that helplines can be wrong. If she brings up the ‘empty’ document on her Mac and presses File/Revert to/Browse all versions, and searches for the date when the document was last intact, it will scroll up again at the side of the screen.

Q. My husband has developed a habit of not fastening his trouser flies. He remains alert on all other matters. Despite frequent reminders, the problem persists. Some years ago, being new in our village, we invited neighbours to tea. As my husband introduced himself, I noticed there was far more being revealed than anyone would have wished. How can I convince my husband he must take more care? The relationship with our new neighbours did not develop, and socialising (when it was permitted) has been slow. I wonder if word got round.

— Name and address withheld

A. You must retrain your husband in preparation for social restrictions being lifted. Next time you see him in this condition, tell the story laughingly of Winston Churchill who, when the same inattention was observed, remarked: ‘A dead bird can’t fall out of its nest.’ Your husband should find this bracing enough to be more careful thereafter. If not, your use of the code word ‘Winston!’ should bring him to his senses.

Q. Having lived in low-ceilinged country cottages since the flood, the answer to banged heads (Dear Mary, 23 January) is a small length of pretty silk ribbon pinned with a drawing pin (thumb tack) in the centre above the door. As the face approaches the danger, the natural instinct is to duck to avoid the sudden light touch of silk. It really works.

— B.G., by email

A. Thank you for sharing this tip. Incidentally, to discourage visitors from roughly lifting a delicate book out of a shelf, a length of thumb-tacked silk, which masks the space between shelf top and book top, has the same effect.