Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 22 February 2003

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I was driving my wife and children to the Warwickshire countryside. My mother followed us in her car. At a slanted T-junction, I stopped to allow some far-off traffic to pass. My mother, thinking, perhaps, that I was still driving like the boy racer of my youth, accelerated straight into the back of my Mercedes. The result: damaged bumper, knackered tow-bar, car in need of repair. Do I: a) claim on her insurance - with all the associated form-filling and grief? b) Claim on my comprehensive insurance and risk a premium rise next year? c) Get the car repaired and send her the bill? Please help.

M.F., Nethercote, Warwickshire

A. The insurers will consider it the fault of the driver whose car has done the crashing into. Between yourself and your mother, however, it is a moral grey area, since you both know that her driving style was reflective of your own former recklessness. Compromise by claiming on her insurance but pay her next year's premium rise yourself.

Q. At six foot five with a misshapen shoulder following a motorbike accident, I am always being told by well-meaning friends that I should have my clothes made to measure. They invariably go on to boast that they themselves have had made-to-measure suits and shirts knocked up in the Far East for a song. I find this irritating as I never go to the Far East. How can I find a tailor outside Savile Row, perhaps even a provincial tailor, Mary, who could do me proud for a Far Eastern price?

F.O., London SW1

A. I recommend that you try the amusingly named new tailoring firm of Addison & Steele, which does not quite offer Far Eastern prices but does offer a Savile Row service for less than half the normal price. Run by youthful Paul Kenward, a former president of the Oxford Union, Addison & Steele tailors will measure you, free of charge, at a venue of your choice. You can select a design from a range of more than 300 colours and patterns which will be shown to you there and then, and the suit or shirt will be knocked up within a month. Shirts, complete with collarbones, French cuffs and additional sleeve buttons, are £75 each. Suits cost from £350 to £750. Call 0845 128 4028 or visit

Q. You might pass this information on to K.C., Weybridge (15 February 2003) whose girlfriend was so rudely insulted in the street for wearing a fur coat and who could not find an appropriate response. A very old friend of mine continued to drive her car when it was apparent to all that she should give up. Her driving was so poor and hesitant that she frequently attracted abuse from other drivers. On one occasion when I was with her, she was roundly insulted by a lorry driver who used words that I don't think my friend had heard before. She wound down her window, looked up at him and said, 'Young man, I feel very sorry for your wife.'

Name and address withheld

A. Thank you for contributing this valuable material. The remark would still be effective today. Britons have always had a natural inclination to rise to the standards expected by well-bred old ladies. We need more of them in public life.

If you have a problem, please write to Dear Mary, c/o 56 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LL.