Mary Killen

Your problems solved | 1 March 2018

Also: friends keep criticising our holiday home and is saying ‘pardon’ a problem?

Text settings

Q. For some time I have been spoiled by paying a small rent for a central flat belonging to absentee friends of my parents. Unfortunately it is a two-bedroom flat and the owners have just moved another lodger in. She is nice but ill-informed and, frankly, thick. Even ordinary non-challenging conversations about domestic issues are frustrating because she’s so slow on the uptake. I realise as I write this that I sound like an entitled brat but I work in finance and am shattered when I get back; I don’t have the mental energy to talk to someone who wants me to explain everything twice. I feel I should have had a say in who was moved in. How, when I raise this with the owners, can I play it tactfully, as I wouldn’t want them to be embarrassed when they realise they have ruined my life by inflicting someone on me?

— Name and address withheld

A. Yes, you are spoiled and entitled and sound like a brat. But by billeting this unwelcome flatmate onto you, your parents’ friends have, knowingly or not, acted in your best interest. There is nothing like domestic dissatisfaction to incentivise someone to work harder to finance their escape. Stay later at your office, so you can pay the market rate for a flat where you can decree your own terms.

Q. My husband and I have a cottage on a beach in Cornwall. It is little more than a shack but it’s clean and charming. Friends often beg to borrow it, even after we have shown them photos and explained how basic it is. We don’t charge, except for the cleaner, so it really rankles when they come back home and lecture us on what’s wrong with it and what we should do to put it right.

— B.M., London NW1

A. Why not leave a suggestions book and ask guests to write their recommendations in it? They’ll feel foolish reiterating the complaints of those who have borrowed the shack on earlier occasions. If they try to lecture you when they get back, gag them by saying you’d rather read the recommendations when you are on site and can take them in.

Q. A friend of mine is a grandmother. Her grandson, who is heir to a colossal inheritance, attends both state and private nurseries, depending on whether his family are in London or the country. The problem is that the state school reprimands him for saying ‘what?’ and tells him to say ‘pardon?’ but the reverse then happens in the private school. The poor boy is now getting a bit confused. What do you suggest, Mary?

— A.C., London W11

A. There is no problem here. It is good for the boy to learn to be bilingual and, when in Rome, to do what the Romans do. The camouflage may well be essential in the coming years.

Write via the editor or email