Mary Killen

Your problems solved | 1 September 2007

Dear Mary

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Q. A very good and loyal friend of mine has just had two operations and recently she rang and asked if she could come and stay for the weekend. I immediately said yes. However, two days later, I opened an email from a boyfriend who lives abroad and saw that he would be visiting the UK that weekend (the first time for two years) and wanted to stay the weekend with me. For reasons I cannot go into here, there is no way that these two can meet. Do I have to bite the bullet and tell my gentleman friend that he cannot come? My woman friend does have a sibling in the area but she is extremely proud and would not take kindly to being told by me that she is to be ousted for a man. I hardly ever lie and cannot think what to do.

E.S., London W11

A. You must stick to the original arrangement. The gentleman friend will admire you for it and accord you a higher moral status than he might previously have done. This will work in your favour as he will then mentally fast-forward your tacit application for the post of carer (to himself). This position may not currently be available but it will inevitably be coming up at some stage in the future. Explain that — for reasons relating to the medical needs of your friend — you will not be able to entertain him on your own premises. There is no need to give further details. However, you have booked him into one of the fashionable hotels in your area. You can then service your female friend in your own home and, insisting that she rests for two or three hours at a time, pop round to the hotel to service the needs of your masculine friend.

Q. There is a man on whom I am desperately keen with whom I socialise a lot. I have reason to believe he shares my feelings but I fear he will never have the confidence to make the first move. Do you have any tips, Mary?

S.H., Ross-shire, Scotland

A. Invite the man to stay with you at your country address. Suggest a walk and explain that since it will be very muddy he must wear gum boots. At this point you can present a pair you have prepared earlier, a pair which will be slightly too small for him. Ensure that the boot-removing devices are all hidden on your return and offer to help him to remove the boots. Explain that he will topple over unless he holds you by both arms as you wrestle with the boots. In this way nature will take its course.

Q. I have a dilemma regarding a new type of etiquette which I don’t believe you have yet tackled. I have the BT call-waiting service on my telephone. This means that when I am on the telephone to one person I can hear a bleep which tells me another person is trying to reach me. Meanwhile this other person can hear an electronic message — ‘The number you are calling knows you are waiting.’ To which person should I be rude?

V.I., London W14

A. The call-waiting feature of the CallMinder service is useful for those awaiting urgent calls while their line is busy. Unfortunately it can also serve as a chippiness-creation tool. No matter how quickly and politely Caller One is dumped so that Caller Two may be answered, Caller One is likely to mind being cut short and Caller Two to mind being kept waiting. Instead, dispense of the service and use one telephone for outgoing calls and another for incoming. A number identification service will enable you to press the mute button on call one, while you greet call two warmly and ask them to hold briefly. You can then extricate yourself from call one without their suspecting a rival caller has grabbed your attention.