Mary Killen

Dear Mary: What’s the cure for a workshy teenager?

Plus: What suitcases without wheels are good for, and professional advice at parties

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Q. I agreed to give (paid) gap-year work experience in my own large garden to the grandson of an extremely nice neighbour. I need the assistance and, in theory, a willing and able novice could learn a lot from me. The boy is due to start soon but now I’ve heard from someone who’s been in close daily contact with him that during his recent study leave for A levels, he was rarely seen off a sun lounger, where he was not even reading but was glued to an iPhone or some gaming device and constantly yawning. I don’t want to fall out with my lovely neighbour but nor do I have the time to waste on a slacker when there are plenty of hard workers out there. How should I tackle this?

— F.B., Twickenham

A. Never underestimate the psychological power a uniform can wield, especially over a boy who has just left school. Go to the work uniform specialists Tibard and buy a ‘high visibility adult tabard’ for only £4.23. The boy will still be in the right mindset to respond to the requirements suggested by donning a specific outfit in which to perform chores. He has also been used to not using his iPhone during lessons so will accept your personal health-and-safety diktat that he leaves his iPhone inside the house and only checks it during breaks.

Q. My godmother has given me a hugely expensive, very beautiful Italian leather weekend case for my 21st. Unfortunately it has no wheels and is therefore totally useless. How can I tactfully ask her to swap it for a case with wheels without making her feel she has been incredibly stupid?

— Name and address withheld

A. Your godmother is clearly better informed than you are. Wheeled luggage is unwelcome in the smartest houses due to the damage done to rugs, staircases and skirting boards. If you’re lucky enough to be invited, you now have the right kit for smart houses, into and out of which you probably won’t be carrying the case yourself anyway.

Q. In your column of 26 April, a correspondent wrote that, as a lawyer, he was irritated by people asking him for free advice at social gatherings. I have known of one way a lawyer dealt with this. A recently qualified doctor was at a party and said to a lawyer there, ‘Now that I am a doctor, people — some of whom I hardly know — approach me and ask for advice about their various medical complaints. How do you, as a professional man, handle this situation?’ The lawyer replied, ‘I give them the advice that they want and the next day I send them an invoice for services rendered.’ ‘Excellent,’ said the doctor, ‘that’s what I will do.’

The following day, at the doctor’s rooms, an invoice arrived for him from the lawyer.

— L.S., by email

A. Thank you for supplying this material.