Mary Killen

Dear Mary: Should I rename my grandmother’s dog to avoid offense?

Dear Mary: Should I rename my grandmother’s dog to avoid offense?
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Q. I have been offered a cottage, at minimal rent, on the estate of a friend of a friend who had got wind of my current unsatisfactory domestic arrangements. I am supposed to move in shortly but now I have looked more closely at the picturesque dwelling I find it is blighted by the typically low ceilings which characterise estate workers’ cottages. It is something that I — and our mutual friend — should have thought of.

I am 6ft 6in and banging my head on beams is likely to be a major problem. How can I tactfully withdraw without making a fool of myself over the intemperance of my gushing acceptance when the offer was made — and particularly without upsetting my would-be benefactor?

— Name and address withheld

A. You should not allow mental inflexibility to cheat you of such an opportunity. Simply wear a motorcycle crash helmet until you have familiarised yourself with the likely injury points. No harm if your benefactor drops in and finds you in the helmet. It will help you to ‘level up’.

Q. My grandmother, aged 90, has an enormous black labrador named Zulu, a popular name among dog-owners of her generation. I have taken Zulu on until the spring but she is very badly trained and will not heed my commands. It sometimes does not go down well when other walkers hear me repeatedly shouting her name. Some of my contemporaries feel strongly that she should be renamed, but as she is 13 years old it is too late to do so. Any suggestions, Mary?

— A.H., Woodborough, Wilts

A. Just rename her ‘Sulu’. The dog won’t notice the difference and you can, truthfully, explain to critics that Sulu is a particularly beautiful part of the Borneo archipelago.

Q. My daughter went into our long-deserted drawing room on New Year’s Eve, and among the bottles left on the piano since we were last in the room in early March she found an unfamiliar one. The tattered label revealed it was 1990 Château d’Yquem. A quick search on Google showed that this was a good vintage, and that a case of the wine would be worth £2,500 today. We have no idea who might have left it — possibly it was given as a birthday present for my husband 18 months ago. The last evening of 2020 seemed as good a time as any and so we drank it with our four grown-up children. It was delicious — but Mary, how can I identify the generous donor(s) so that we can thank them?

— J.A., Holwell, Sherborne

A. You, or one of your children, could put a photo of the empty bottle on Instagram captioned: ‘Thank you to the lovely person who gave this present in 2019. You know who you are! It completely made our family’s New Year’s Eve 2020. Most grateful.’