Once again Mary has invited some of her favourite figures in the public eye to submit personal queries for her attention.
From Jesse Norman MP
Q. We’ve been having a little local difficulty at work with one or two colleagues who vigorously assert their loyalty to the organisation, but then go and join a would-be competitor. It’s not that this is bad for morale; on the contrary. But it confuses some of our customers. Your advice would be most welcome.
A. Take the tip of a top industrialist who never tried to refuse a resignation: congratulate the deserter effusively on his decision and declare publicly that he and his new organisation will make an excellent fit and wish him well. Finish with the wise words of Sacha Guitry: ‘When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.’
From Tom Hodgkinson, Idler Academy
Q. I have started my own academy where adults can learn skills such as ukulele, philosophy and calligraphy. This venture has every appearance of success: it will doubtless make money one day. I am completely free. The mother of my children is beautiful and interesting, and so are her issue. Best of all, I have not had a job since 1997. So what is my problem? Put simply, I am skint. I have been reduced to hoping to be invited to Sunday lunch with the in-laws so I can stuff my face with lamb and potatoes and thereby avoid the expense of supper. Any advice on how I can earn more money, Mary, and ‘monetise my content’?
A. You are well positioned to monetise your huge data bank of contacts instead. There is a gap in the market for a ‘nonline’ literary match-making agency. The academy would make a perfect venue for singleton evenings involving two-handed teams of strangers, recruited and paired by you, tackling jigsaws and quizzes at tiny desks. This will allow literary lovelorns to bond together in competition while also getting something of the physical measure of each other. Charge highly for the access and likely romantic result.
From Mr N.M. Gwynne
Q. Have you any suggestions on how I could milk my newly raised profile (as a bestselling author on English grammar and Latin, and a regular BBC Radio 5 broadcaster on how to speak and write English, and that sort of thing) to make the acquaintance of the kind of people whom, perhaps a little to my shame, I sometimes find myself rather longing to meet — such as Miss Kate Moss, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Mick Jagger, and, as of the past few weeks, Mrs George Clooney?
A. As a bestselling author you should have no difficulty getting a contract to write a biography of any one of these celebrities. In the course of your research you will naturally have many intimate meetings with all the others on your list.
From Jim Broadbent
Q. As an immensely successful actor I am more than happy with my lot. However, I have recently developed a burning desire to make my mark in politics. I feel sure that I could make a favourable impression and that it could only enhance my already stratospheric public profile. My only problem is I lack ‘certainty’. I really don’t know what I think on any given subject. I don’t necessarily see this as an insurmountable problem since in my career to date I have given ample evidence that I can spout arrant nonsense convincingly, but I would like guidance as to which political party would most benefit from my particular skills.
A. The Liberal Democrats, as the most chameleon-like party, would be the natural home for an actor, but it doesn’t really matter which party you join — as long as you stand in a seat threatened by Ukip. Your existing high profile will reassure voters who have ‘never heard of’ any of the other contestants and you will surge to an easy victory. After which, don’t worry about the lack of certainty — it will be a good thing to be responsive and flexible.
From Kate Reardon, Tatler
Q. I recently took part (some might say ‘starred’) in a highly acclaimed BBC2 fly-on-the-wall documentary series. I must admit I rather enjoyed being centre of attention, followed at all times by a production crew and constantly being asked my opinion on an exciting array of topics. How can I adjust back to real life with an absence of cameras and a sneaking suspicion that I may not be quite as fascinating as I thought?
A. While the publicity is still cresting, why not hire an intern to film and interview you each day, then edit and post the results onto a YouTube channel? In this way you could help a film-world wannabe get started on a career while continuing to receive the bogus morale-boosting the attention will give you.
From Francis Fulford
Q. Have you any suggestions for what to give my wife for Christmas? She doesn’t want anything practical and was deeply unamused when I gave her a ‘top-of-the-range’ Barbour tweed coat some years ago. So obvious things like gardening forks, dog leads etc are out of the question. My children have suggested that she would like a 50” colour TV from Argos (currently a ‘bargain’ at £299) but I am not convinced and don’t want to have her suffer a major sense of humour failure when she unwraps it in front of all our Christmas guests.
A. What do women want? You need look no further than the answer given in ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’, which rings true even today. Women want to be in charge of their husbands and lovers. Therefore you may simply present your wife with 12 privately printed vouchers to be redeemed on a monthly basis throughout 2015. Each one will give her far greater happiness than anything money can buy — the right to ask you to do one thing a month you don’t want to do and the compulsion on your part to obey her without argument.