Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 19 July 2003

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Q. Having just sold a flat, I have some spare cash which I wish to put to good use for my family. My grandson George recently had a nasty operation on his knee, and my daughter was, at the time, not quite sure how much the medical insurance would pick up. I sent her a cheque for £5,000 to lessen her worry — and I also said that if she didn’t need it now to put it into a separate account in case of complications. I know that my letter arrived, but I now find, three weeks later, that she has not paid this cheque in. Is she lazy, forgetful or simply uncaring? What do you think? I am frightened to ring her.

Name and address withheld

A. Perhaps your daughter is earning ‘funny money’ in the City, and your own real money has had a reduced impact on her. Perhaps she has been distracted from her duty by the sort of self-generated mini-dramas typical of the young. Whatever the reason for her failure to acknowledge your generous bequest, she still needs to mind her manners. Cancel the cheque immediately and use the £5,000 to buy Premium Bonds in your grandson’s name. Forms are available from any post office or by ringing 0845 964 5000. I suggest you also fill in an automatic reinvestment form so that, should the boy receive huge winnings, they do not gather dust in your daughter’s entrance hall. For some reason National Savings insist on corresponding with the parent, even if the grandparent has bought the bonds. However, at 16 your grandson will be able to take control of the bonds and translate them into cash.

Q. The other day I uncharacteristically turned on the Richard and Judy show. There I saw an extremely handsome farmer, glorying, along with Richard and Judy, about the aesthetic impact on the Worcestershire countryside of his striped rows of delphiniums in pink, purple, lavender and ivory. These are apparently being grown as biodegradable confetti and are welcomed by clergymen where paper confetti is banned. Clearly, the farmer was unpushy, as he failed to give his contact address when pressed for it. Can you help me, Mary, as I would love to buy some for a forthcoming wedding?

B.B., Marlborough, Wiltshire

A. The Real Flower Petal Confetti Co. is at and the telephone number is 01386 555045. Incidentally, the handsome farmer who produces it is Charles Hudson, a member of the Worcestershire squirearchy, and the husband of writer Cressida Connolly, daughter of Cyril.

Q. We have been going to Cornwall every summer since the children were born. This year my daughter is 15 and wants to join the other teenagers staying up all night on the beach at Daymer Bay. I do not want to cramp her style but I am worried she may get into some sort of trouble. What shall I do, Mary?

Name and address withheld

A. Why not join forces with another concerned parent and the two of you do a Mrs Doubtfire? Dress up as a couple of tramps or saddoes, bring a liquid picnic, stoke a mini- bonfire, and make an evening of it. You will then be ready to strike should the need arise.