Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 23 November 2002

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. Please help! I recently met a wonderful girl whom I find quite enchanting. She's beautiful, creative and successful in her own business, and I find that I am always thinking about her. I am concerned, however, that she might be a bit thick. While on her way to an important trade event in Paris, she asked me to recommend restaurants where she could take staff and clients. I recommended, among others, one of the newest and most chic 'designer' restaurants that I have frequented, as I often travel to Paris on business. On her return she thanked me for the recommendation. Recently, however, I was told quite confidentially that she didn't consider me to be a suitable new friend because of this same recommendation. It seems that, by recommending something 'cold and designer-like' instead of a nice little Moroccan, my hopes for a relationship have been dashed. The real problem is that she asked me where to go on business, not where I would take her on a night out. In truth, I know a wonderfully romantic Moroccan restaurant in the rue de Gravilliers where I would love to take her, if only I had the chance to make amends. Is there any hope in pursuing this, Mary, or should I take my wounded pride and move on?

Name and address withheld

A. Clearly your potential new partner made a rush to judgment based on inadequate findings. The recommendation of Pershing Hall should not have been enough to condemn you. May I suggest that you knock up a six-minute homemade video in the manner of the American television programme Lives of the Rich and Famous to give a truer picture of your lifestyle, tastes and preferences, and forward it to the beauty in question? You can then sit back and wait for her revisionist response to this exercise. If nothing else, the video will at least be of great interest to your personal posterity.

Q. One year ago I became freelance and started working from home. As a consequence of no longer having PAYE status, I now have a huge backlog of unintelligible letters and forms from my accountant which remain undealt with. As an Oxford graduate, I must be of at least normal intelligence, but I find myself so baffled by the jargon, and so painfully bored, that I put the letters down after a few lines and leave them for another day when I feel stronger. This procrastination is interfering with my quality of life, but I fear that any secretary I hired would be unlikely to be any wiser than I am about deciphering its contents. What do you suggest I do, Mary?

C.G., Oxfordshire

A. Simply ring your accountant and announce that you are aware you have recently received a sheaf of correspondence from him which required an urgent response; however, you have temporarily mislaid it. Could he tell you, in a nutshell, what was the gist of the letters and what sort of response he requires.

Q. I have just come back from a holiday on La Palma. On opening my suitcase I found a number of stamped postcards to friends back home which I forgot to post while I was in the Canary Islands. Can I post them now, or will I have to put on new English stamps?

G.W., Marlborough, Wiltshire

A. I have heart-warming news for readers, many of whom will have found themselves in the same position as you. A conversation with Post Office Sales on 0845 7950950 reveals that, while there are no 'hard and fast rules', such postcards and letters would still be delivered, even with the 'wrong' stamp, on the grounds that 'postage has been paid somewhere in the world and if the correspondence has already found its own way to this country, so much the better'.