Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 14 May 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. A man I cannot avoid at drinks parties is now sixtysomething and, after years of having been highly sought after by women, now lives without a woman and so has lost it slightly in terms of his personal grooming. That does not bother me. What does bother me is that he has a habit of chomping on nuts, crisps, canapes, whatever is available, but carrying on talking at the same time and consequently spraying the face of his interlocutor with quite substantial pellets of food. He seems to be gloriously unaware of the fact that he is doing this. How can I, without being unkind, discourage this barrage? On my most recent meeting some of the contents of his mouth were actually projected into mine.

Name and address withheld

A. Fans are now back in fashion and fan-dancing classes are being held throughout London. Why not keep a fan about your person and wield it as a protective shield whenever you meet this man? If challenged you can put him at his ease by putting the defect in your own court as you explain that, at your time of life, you find a fan absolutely indispensable to offset the problems of hot flushes.

Q. I am deeply distressed that my artist friend, Richard Foster (whom I have known for nearly 50 years) and whose ancestor commanded the Charge of the Light Brigade, has seen fit to exclude me from a private view of his paintings at the Indar Pasricha Gallery in Connaught Street later this month. I understand that the event coincides with Richard’s 60th birthday, and this will be celebrated with a dinner in a posh Indian restaurant after the show. I would desperately like to be included in these festivities and wonder what I can possibly have done to cause me to be frozen out in this hurtful manner.

A.B., London W8

A. I have taken the liberty of consulting Richard Foster himself about your problem. If you are the publicity-mad, name-dropping A.B. he remembers from school, he says that you are yourself becoming rather well known as an artist in your own right, and that Hello magazine even did a full-colour feature on a recent exhibition of your sensationalist but perhaps skill-free work, which was held in Fitzrovia. As a firm traditionalist and one of the so-called ‘pin-striped painters’, he regrets he cannot risk being upstaged by you on this very special and private occasion. He assures me, however, that you will be more than welcome to visit the Pasricha Gallery during ordinary opening hours.

Q. I share with the cousin of your correspondent (I.T., 16 April) a liking for Kilner jars. In this part of the world, southern Spain, they provide a refuge from insects. If, once opened, rice, biscuits etc. were not safely stored in Kilner or screwtop jars, thousands of ants would beat a trail to my larder door. The original packets can be kept in a drawer for neurotics to read. Whether or not they look dull surely depends on their contents.

M.A., Cadiz, Spain

A. Many thanks for reminding readers of this threat in sunnier climes. Rather than keeping the packets in a drawer, it would be more practical to cut out the information regarding ingredients, calorie counts and sell-by dates, and slide them into the Kilner jar.