Mary Killen Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 4 January 2003

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

Dear Mary…

Q. A couple of years ago you advised readers to minimise present-buying stress at Christmas by finding something that would be acceptable to people of all age ranges and simply buying up said item in bulk. This year I took your advice and feel I must share with readers the great success that I enjoyed with my bulk purchase of butler’s trays from IKEA. These trays are deep and come in painted-white-wood effect with fold-up stand. They were received with delight by both adults – who saw them as ideal bedroom accessories – and children who used them to provide surfaces to play on and to contain little messes of small plastic toys. At the end of the day, said messes can be lifted up wholesale to the child’s bedroom; all this for only £17 a tray.
F.W., London W8

A. Thank you for sharing this helpful tip.

Q. For my business I often have to give drinks parties for large numbers of people. I am fortunate in being able to rely on a large retinue of assistants to send out invitations and organise catering. Despite this, my social energy is limited. I am good for only about two hours of non-stop chattering in this sort of cocktail-party setting before I have had enough and want everyone to go home. My wife tells me that I start becoming noticeably crabby towards the end of a party which, of course, is not the impression I wish to give. Nor do I wish problems with my blood sugar levels to undo all the goodwill that has been generated. What is the best way of ensuring that people who are invited between, say, 6.30 and 8.30, do actually leave before I have gone ‘on the turn’?
Name withheld, London SW1

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