Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 3 May 2003

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. My husband has developed an annoying habit of beginning to unzip himself as he approaches our downstairs gents. He also delays the buttoning-up process until long after he has vacated the facility. I am afraid that I find this obscene. How can I put a stop to this habit?

Name withheld, Binham, Norfolk

A. You are not the only reader to have written in to complain about this problem, but a solution is readily to hand. One out of every three dogs is of the crutch-sniffing variety, however charming the animal may be in other respects. Discreetly ask around, without revealing the purpose, and see if you could borrow such a dog for a couple of weeks. You will soon see an end to the nuisance.

Q. I find it most difficult to obtain loden clothes in England. All that can be found readily are the 'Douglas Hurd'-style loden overcoats, as sported by members of the 'DL, JP' class, usually flung in the back of a Subaru estate car. What I would like is a Sound of Music-style sports coat. Green or grey loden jackets of this sort, often with differently coloured collars, as on a hunting coat, are frequently to be seen on visiting Austrians and Bavarians, but are unobtainable in Blighty. Mary, where can such garments be purchased in Britain?

J.S., London SW1

A. Swanns Way, owned and run by Alistair Cooke's stepdaughter Holly Rumbold, provides trendy loden and coats with different buttons, etcetera: folkloric lite. Swanns Way is at 55 Hollywood Road, London SW10. Tel: 0207 351 7907. For classical Austrian clothes you might visit online the shop patronised by Marlene Dietrich and Herbert von Karajan, Lanz of Salzburg Tel: 00 43 662 874272.

Q. I was delighted to receive £30 for my successful entry to the Jaspistos competition. Last week The Spectator presented me with another £30 cheque, erroneously. This was swiftly banked by my husband, who believes that it would cost more than £30 to send the cheque back and reprocess it. My son suggests that I enter another Jaspistos competition and award myself the £30 whether or not the entry is printed. I am slightly superstitious, and believe that what you give you get and, conversely, what you take is eventually taken from you. What would you do?

A. B., Northamptonshire

A. The following anecdote from my childhood may be pertinent to your dilemma. Having pulled up in a deserted carpark in the midst of remote Irish bogland, about 20 miles from the nearest human presence, my father and I observed a notice declaring that a collection box on a wooden stump was available to receive the tiny fee applicable for parking there. With classic Irish illogicality it warned that those who failed to pay would be fined. 'Who by?' I inquired of my father (it was the days before CCTV). 'Your conscience,' he replied. I experienced a rush of recognition that this would indeed be the case. Draw a cheque on your own account for £30 and post this to The Spectator. It will be worth the tedious paperwork to avoid a fine from your own conscience.