Q. I own a holiday cottage in Padstow in Cornwall. Sometimes I let the cottage, at other times I allow friends to stay there. I employ a local cleaning agency to come in on Monday mornings to clean up after each occupancy and get it ready for the incoming parties. My problem is that recently a great friend of mine, who is very fastidious, stayed in the cottage and informed me that she had left the place spotless on her departure — yet I still had the usual bill from the cleaning agency. It now occurs to me that other occupants may be equally fastidious, but since I live in London I have no means of checking. How can I avoid being had for a mug, Mary?B.T., London W12
A. The cleaning ladies are only human. You cannot expect them to set aside a morning in which to generate some income and then walk away without charging if there is no work to be done. You must bite the bullet and cough up. I recommend that you increase your rental by a tenner or so, to make it easier for you to
shoulder this burden more philosophically.
Q. As summer is nearly upon us, what are the rules and regulations about serving rosé? I have to admit that this fragrant pink drink is one of my very favourites but I gather not everyone shares my enthusiasm.B.H., London NW3
A. Why not take your cue from the great Sybille Bedford, whose memoirs, Quicksands, come out next month? Mrs Bedford, now 94 and widely acknowledged as our ‘prime chronicler of sensuous experience’, has ruled that rosé should be drunk only out of doors and in company.
Q. A man I know talks to me with his eyes almost fully shut and his eyelashes fluttering. He is not the only person who does this — I think people sometimes do it because they are concentrating on what they are saying (although others do it out of pretension). The effect this habit has on me is that I lose concentration on what they are saying and all I can think of is how annoyed I am. How should one sustain a conversation with such people, Mary?F.W., address withheld
A. Bring these people to their senses by clicking your fingers sharply every three seconds. Do this quite close to their eyeballs. The noise will startle them into opening their eyes properly. When challenged, you can reply that you have become a ‘clicker’ — following the example of Naomi Campbell and others — a new method of highlighting the fact that every three seconds someone in the world dies as a result of poverty. Practitioners click their fingers every three seconds to drive home this truth.
Q. I am house-hunting in the West Country at the moment and am about to brief a property search agency to do the groundwork for me. Can you tell me what is the distinction between a vicarage and a rectory?N.M., London W8
A. A rectory is bigger and grander than a vicarage since a rector enjoys superior rank to a vicar. You will find there are more vicarages available than rectories. It is a sorry business that any of them should be available for secular use.