Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 2 October 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Q. My flatmate recently departed for a fortnight’s holiday, leaving behind several days’ worth of dirty plates. When I asked if he’d mind washing them up before going, he replied that he had no intention of doing so, because he knew I’d do them if he left them. In this he was, unfortunately, correct. I am infuriated by this calculated act of selfishness, but do not wish to aggravate the situation. How can I prick his conscience and force an apology for this unacceptable behaviour?

T.M., London W5

A. Go away for a holiday or a weekend yourself, and generate a pile of dishes for your flatmate to clear up in your absence. Smile pleasantly as you leave, pointing out that you are only abiding by the ‘house rules’ he established himself. In the ghastly eventuality of his calling your bluff and leaving it to confront you on your return, you will have to accept that there must be a ‘Cynthia Payne’ aspect to your relationship in which you are unconsciously colluding. Perhaps you should offer to pay him to allow you to wash up all his dishes in future and just have done with it.

Q. I was recently stopped for speeding by a policeman. After we had got to the stage where he took down my full name he started to address me by my Christian name. In this new spirit of intimacy, how should I address him in return, bearing in mind he has not revealed his own name? Is there a general appellation such as ‘Phil’ (as in filth) or, if it is a woman, ‘Ros’ (as in Rozzer)? Please advise.

R.B., Borough Green, Kent

A. I am pleased to announce that this has not become standard police practice and was in fact a breach of etiquette by the young constable. If he were planning to let you off with a caution, then it would have been a Pyrrhic victory for you to have put him in his place. If, on the other hand, he involved you in a punitive measure, you could have punished him by calling him ‘Inspector’, which would have forced him to correct you and reveal his true rank to be constable.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers who are planning to travel from Paddington station in the near future? Locked ticket barriers are now in place which prevent all those without tickets from boarding the trains. With queues at the ticket offices snaking around the block you must add 20 minutes to your journey time to avoid the nuisance of missing the train.

M.W., Wiltshire

A. Thank you for this useful tip. May I remind readers, however, that there are two ticket offices at Paddington? There is never a queue at the one near Boots.

Q. Thank you very much for your Cornish crumble recipe. I made it right away, then made an adult version with orange cura