Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 18 June 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. Let me offer a variant on your wet towel advice (21 May). My partner and I were married for more than 60 years between us, but not to each other, so we came to this new and lovely relationship with many years’ experience of how not to do things. It became apparent early on that I was now living with a habitual towel-dropper, which in the past would have caused friction. One lesson we have both learnt is to look for jolly opportunities to communicate feelings of love and care. Towel-dropping provided one. Our arrangement is that I insist on picking it up for her every day as a silent statement of love. On the occasions I forget, the towel is offered to me with a quizzical look or occasionally hung up with a theatrical, long-suffering sigh, both of which are huge improvements on simmering resentment or damp towels.

Name and address withheld

A. Thank you for this insight into a happy relationship. Readers may wish to take a tip from you and convert their own irritations into sources of happiness using the same method.

Q. I was invited to stay with a friend of a friend for a weekend and, before setting off for her substantial property in Devon, I telephoned to announce that I was on my way. My hostess told me she hoped I would arrive in good time for dinner that night since she had ten people turning up for it. I had already packed a box of superior French chocolates as a present for her but, in an attempt to be helpful, inquired whether there was anything else I could pick up for her on my way. ‘Oh how kind,’ she replied. ‘What about some delicious wine? I rather like Sancerre, don’t you?’ She calculated that ten guests would require five bottles. The contribution cost me £75, which I feel was excessive. My hostess did not offer to pay me back (and she is not vague — on the contrary she has always struck me as quite beady). Nor did she comment on my generosity. What would you have done, Mary?

Name and address withheld

A. You should have acted daft and turned up instead with five bottles of a serviceable wine costing roughly £4.50, such as the fashionable Vi