Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 6 August 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I was entertaining a friend to drinks one evening after the pub. When he left (at approximately 1 a.m.) he called up to me from the pavement to say that as he was leaving he had heard one of my neighbours (there are six flats in the building) complaining about the noise coming from my flat. I had been playing music and I concede that — although not greatly loud — it could have been heard by others at this quiet time of day. Naturally, I turned it off. In the morning I woke up to find that I had no electricity in the flat. On further investigation, I discovered that one of my neighbours had turned off my electricity supply at the meter box in the common part of the house. I am not an unreasonable person and would have turned down the music had anyone knocked on my door to say it was disturbing them. How then should I respond to this cowardly behaviour?

R.T., Hammersmith Grove, London W6

A. You must forgive the cowardice and despicability of this act, but deliver a subtle reprimand in the following manner. In Neighbourhood-Watch-style persona go to each of the other flats in turn, informing the occupants of what happened, apologising for any disturbance and adding, ‘I am sure it was nothing to do with you, but if you happen to find out who it was, do tell them I am a completely reasonable person who would hate to think of someone in this block being frightened of me and too timid to ring up if the music is too loud.’

Q. Should your 59-year-old sandal-wearer ever get to the east coast of Bali (23 July) he can have a massage, a manicure, a pedicure and a hair-cut for a snip at £4. What’s more, if he doesn’t want to walk or cycle to the village, a motor will collect.

J.P., Sydney, NSW

A. I assume that you are not providing the service yourself but just reminding readers that these happiness-promoting comforts exist at budget-friendly prices in other countries. It prompts me to remind readers hosting house-parties in Scotland in forthcoming weeks that a resident massage therapist will make all the difference to the general well-being of guests — particularly if the weather is bad. The norm is to offer each guest one 40-minute massage per day. The guests should tip the masseur themselves. Such appointments are no longer considered eccentric — provided the massage is of the seemly sort only — and many of the same agencies which supply cooks for holiday lets can also recommend peripatetic masseurs who are only too happy to have a change of scene and some guaranteed income.

Q. In response to M.L. from Germany (23 July), with reference to the ongoing debate about thongs visible above low-cut trouser waistbands, I submit hereunder my German version of Ogden Nash’s poem:

Sicher, zieh Dir Hosen an

Ueber Deine schoenen Beine

Goettlich schreitest Du voran
Leider Rueckschau has Du Keine.
R.W., West Chiltington, West Sussex

A. Congratulations on your amusing composition.