Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 12 March 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. What can one give as a present to friends, in their fifties, who are getting married? Both have previously been married to other people and already have all the material goods they could possibly want. Like the Prince of Wales and Mrs Parker Bowles, the couple in question have been secretly in love for many years so something romantic would be appropriate. What do you recommend, Mary?

A.Q., Dartmouth

A. Why not order some customised stamps to celebrate your friends’ marriage? The Royal Mail now provides a service which allows you to combine a photograph of your choice with a legitimate Royal Mail stamp. A unique set of 20 first class stamps costs just £14.95. I think a hundred would be an enjoyable amount for an engaged couple to receive. If they want more, they can reorder themselves. Details of this very straightforward and easy to use service can be found on www.royalmail.com/customisedstamps where you can download an order form. If you supply a pleasant celebratory photograph of the couple concerned, no doubt they will be delighted by your commemorative gesture.

Q. I often go to lunch in a West End club and drink far too much. What is the correct way of ameliorating any possible hangover effects at lunchtime?

A.B., London W8

A. The solution to your problem, which has long been successfully practised by experienced clubmen and ladies, is to make a point of taking a long walk home from the club of your choice. A 60 to 90 minute ambulation procedure is usually sufficient to promote a heightened sense of wellbeing when one is fully sober. When the worse for wear it will at least serve to counterbalance the effect of the intake of poisons, so that one feels close to normal by the time of arrival at one’s place of residence.

Q. How can one best cover up the fact that one fancies someone rotten? Friends of friends have recently moved near to us and we are bound to start seeing a lot of each other due to children at school together etcetera. The man of the couple has film- star good looks and build. I have no intention of committing adultery and I am sure he does not fancy me back, but I am dreading sitting opposite him at dinners because people have always told me they can read my face like an open book. How should I best compose myself on these occasions?

Name and address withheld

A. Do not make the mistake of ignoring the man or being cold towards him since this is the biggest giveaway of all. Try to think of him in a sympathetic way — and make a show of being inquisitive and interested in his life in a courteous but almost patronising way. If anyone queries your stance, explain that you are trying to be kind to the poor fellow since you feel it must be hard for him to be stigmatised as a bimbo.

If you have a problem, write to: Dear Mary, c/o The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LL.