Q. I have three spare bedrooms in London and I welcome friends to come and stay. Unfortunately, some of these frequent visitors seem never to have been taught how to wash up. They think they are being helpful by seizing on things that are too big for the machine, running the hot tap continuously over them without a plug in the sink, and then leaving these sudsy pans and serving dishes to dry on the draining board. I find the waste of water maddening, ditto the lack of rinsing. How do I get people to adopt the traditional two-sinks method without seeming queeny?
— Name withheld, London SW3
A. Confuse the would-be helpers by stacking the washing up somewhere unexpected — on a trolley, for example. When they ask ‘Can I tackle this trolley-load?’, say ‘Oh no, I love washing up myself... it’s so relaxing. But if you’d really like to help, you can read aloud to me while I do it.’ Get some real benefit by requiring that they read out some deadly dull Terms and Conditions that you would never get around to scrutinising on your own.
Q. Last week you asserted that all guests are served simultaneously at royal and other banquets. May I take you to task, Mary, as this is incorrect.
— Name and address withheld
A. I do apologise for the lapse. Of course there would not be physical room for as many servants as guests. I meant to say ‘more or less simultaneously’.
Q. Like A.B. of W8 last week, I too have a problem with disconnecting phone calls. I live in a very big house and I may be on the top floor or in my garden but my answering service kicks in after only eight rings — apparently this can’t be extended. This means I invariably have to ring people back, which is annoying if they have rung from abroad or from a mobile, as I am then paying a premium rate. What is your solution, Mary?
— A.C., London W8
A. Turn the situation to your advantage by telling your best friends to always ring you twice so that you have time to get to the telephone. This method is useful as it weeds out nuisance calls and time-wasting calls from telephone-addict friends, and makes sure only those you really want to speak to can get through.
Q. Do we expect any acknowledgement of Mother’s Day from our children this Sunday, or is it only for other social classes? Please clarify.
— C.C., Worcs
A. Let others reward those who have devised this commercial initiative. Your own children should be encouraged to give you out of the blue presents and love cards on any other day of the year. It is right to resist the pressure, or soon you will be shelling out for ‘Teacher’s Day’ and ‘Neighbours’ Day’ tributes.