Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 31 May 2003

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. A friend of mine has a maddening habit. She rings me from her mobile saying urgently, 'Can you ring me straight back?' then hangs up. Clearly she believes that it is much cheaper for me to ring her mobile from my landline than vice versa. This may or may not be the case – who has the time to read leaflets from the telephone companies and work it out? – but if she wants to talk to me, usually just idle chatter, then my feeling is that she should pay. Am I right, Mary? Or have I gone quite mad?

P. de Z., London NW3

A. Why not turn all this pricing confusion to your advantage? Next time you talk to your friend, extract from her the promise that, as soon as she gets home, she will look up her latest mobile-telephone bill and find out what billing programme she is on. Explain that another friend of yours is about to buy a mobile and wants to make sure that she doesn't get duped into buying into the same programme as your friend clearly has: 'I mean, you can never ring anyone yourself, can you? People always have to ring you back – and that must make you feel you're being a real nuisance. Poor you. Why don't I look into the different programmes for you, and then I could advise you about which one to switch to?' In this way you should soon see an end to the nuisance.

Q. Having attended a funeral and wake last Monday, I found out after I had gone home that an old friend, on whom I have not clapped eyes for 22 years, was also present. I would love to have talked to her, but had no idea she was there since, at our age, the change in appearance is fairly dramatic and we obviously did not recognise each other. I wonder if you might suggest to your readers, Mary, that it might be a good idea for 'mourners' to fill out two sets of attendance cards, one when they are walking into the church and another when they are walking into the building wherein the wake is to take place. In this way, the cards could all be collected and mounted on a display board somewhere near the entrance, so that those present could at least recognise the names, if not the faces, and then go in search of their old acquaintances.

G.W., Wiltshire

A. Thank you for this useful tip.

Q. Some months ago I discovered that my husband was having an affair. Since that moment various friends and au pairs have come forward with evidence of other affairs, which have been going on during the 20-year course of our marriage. We have four children. Now he wants to come back. How can I trust him again?

Name and address withheld

A. You should let him come back, but why try to trust him? Instead, take a tip from Lady Archer who, along with various other high-profile wives, have found it genuinely convenient not to have her husband's demanding persona manifest at all times.