Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 20 November 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I don’t know whether you can help me but I thought it worth a try. About 15 years ago, I was charged, while on holiday in Australia, with a very minor offence which I felt was quite unjustified, and did not feel disposed to cancel my flight three days later and wait to appeal in court more than two weeks later. (I might also have lost my job, if I was three weeks’ late home.) I would now like to visit Australia again and am wondering if I will be turned back at the airport and/or charged with the original alleged offence and/or arraigned for skipping the country. I have recently been granted a visa to visit the country but this may not mean I won’t be arrested. If you are unable to answer this question, perhaps you would advise me as to how I might proceed as I have twice tried to phone the Australian High Commission but only managed to talk to a machine. I have also telephoned two local solicitors who have said they don’t deal with questions concerning Australian law.

J., the North of England

A. The spokesperson at the High Commission was naturally reluctant to spell out to me the precise extent of their computerised criminal records and/or whether or not you were likely to be arrested on arrival, despite, as you say, having acquired a visa. But why not go to and, in the search box at the top right, type in ‘character requirement’ in which you will be able to probe further and eliminate your risk. The visa is not a guarantee of entry. You can still be stymied by the entry clearance migration officer at the airport deciding to wield his power. I am told by a security expert colleague that it is highly unlikely that you would meet any obstacles but personally I would come clean and offer to pay in advance whatever fine might have been involved. Your problem calls to mind the arrival of the late Marquess of Bristol in Sydney in the l980s. The Marquess, whose arrogance had not been diminished by the short prison sentence he had served for possessing drugs, was asked, on arrival at the airport, whether he had a criminal record. He drawled in reply, ‘I didn’t know it was still necessary.’

Q. One often hears about tapeworms and how they can allow one to eat a lot of food without putting on weight. Can you advise me how I can actually ‘contract’, if that is the word, a tapeworm?

A.A., London SW11

A. Your information is garbled. It is roundworms which enable one to eat a lot without putting on weight. However, they are not recommended since they create cysts within the muscles and your gain would be extremely short-term.

Q. The atmosphere in my house is very tense because we have 20 large rooms and are a family of seven. Someone always seems to be standing at the bottom of the stairs yelling someone else’s name. How can I civilise my family, Mary?

D.M., London W1

A. Simply install a ‘caller versatility’ telephone system which can double as an intercom. In this way a disembodied, but not a yelling, voice can politely manifest in every room simultaneously to inquire where the missing person or object is without causing adrenalin rushes. Call this number, 0800 112991, for further information.