Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 23 July 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. With reference to the problem of middle-aged women clad in low-slung jeans with thongs akimbo (25 June), perhaps a poem to cure ‘sartorial lapses’ might be more effective?

Sure, deck your lower limbs in pants:

Yours are the limbs, my sweeting.

You look divine as you advance —

Have you seen yourself retreating?

Published by Ogden Nash in 1931 when he was looking at something very different. A translation into German is needed in this area where most of the women behind their shopping trolleys are hugely pear-shaped — and the first sighting of a G-string last week attracted a long queue at the check-out.

M.L., Neustadt/Haardt, Germany

A. Thank you. The Ogden Nash reminder is welcomed. Perhaps restaurants and pubs in the worst-affected areas could take a lead by banning thong-wearers from their premises.

Q. Please help me. I am being driven mad by my neighbours. Their garden (v. small) contains a paddling pool, tricycle, trampoline, slide, bouncy ball and barbeque and the children, aged four and two, spend most of their time in the garden screaming. Their parents (and guests every weekend) eat their evening meal (and at weekends lunch) outside, so there is little respite. It is impossible to sit in my garden and I can’t bear to do any gardening. The elder child is presently being treated (successfully) for a brain tumour, so I don’t feel I can go round and say anything. I am single, a university lecturer with flexible hours, and I own two non-barking dogs. Please, how can I get the message across that the noise is unbearable? I can’t stand it much longer.

Name and address withheld

A. I am afraid that, with such a well-equipped garden and toddlers of two and four, even if they tried hard to stop it, your neighbours’ noise is likely to go on for at least six years. You might try to do a summer house swap, advertising locally: ‘Academic in search of a quiet life wishes to swap her house and garden with barbecue-loving parents of noisy toddlers who would enjoy the freedom of a summer next door to similar.’ Alternatively you might put your leisure hours and academic contacts to profitable use by securing a position for your neighbour as attendant in a pre-school day-care centre to which she could bring her own toddlers.

Q. I am a 59-year-old man who has been wearing sandals for the first time this year. I have been told by a sister-in-law that I would benefit from a pedicure. Can you tell me whether it is acceptable for a male to have a pedicure and what exactly does the procedure involve, how much does it cost, etcetera?

A.B., London W8

A. Not only are pedicures acceptable for men, they are actually de rigueur for those men too fat to access their own feet for the purposes of self-grooming. A professional pedicure is largely a soothing experience. After being soaked in a foot bath, nails are filed and trimmed to reasonable length, unruly cuticles are suppressed, leathery areas are dispatched and an agreeable foot massage is often thrown in. At Harrods Urban Retreat, for example, it costs only £40 for a full hour of being tampered with and fussed over.