Q. A friend constantly walks around with his bootlaces undone. His wife declines to nag him on the grounds she doesn’t want to be in a ‘co-dependent relationship’. We all enjoy this man’s company but we cannot work out whether his habit is attention-seeking (for example he often has to kick his legs out at right angles when walking while carrying a lot of equipment) or just a manifestation of his natural slobbishness. Either way it will not make for a restful atmosphere in a forthcoming week-long fishing party. What do you suggest?
— S.H., Church Stretton, Salop
A. Get hold of the boots while the irritator is in bed and tie each single lace up in a tightly knotted double bow to stand smartly, but not dangling, by the eyelets on either side. The laces will be still intact should he want to do them up — but, since he never does, it will be no inconvenience to him.
Q. The experience of your correspondent O.R. (Dear Mary, 3 August) of not being asked a single question at dinner is not confined to politician neighbours: a lady friend of mine sat next to a man who, similarly, asked her nothing until, somewhat begrudgingly towards the end of the meal, said: ‘And what do you do?’ Completely fed up with his rudeness, the friend, who is in her sixties, replied: ‘Oh, I’m a hostess; my husband’s income is just too small to cover our costs so I have to find other ways.’ This stimulated the conversation!
— P.F., Mere, Wilts
A. Thank you for sharing this tip. What a marvellous punishment she meted out. The timing was crucial,of course; it had to be done in the last moments of their sitting together so he wouldn’t have time to find holes in her claims. Instead he — anyone — would have been kicking themself at having left it too late to request the spicy details.
Q. A few times a year I travel to Rome on business where I spend time with a team of 12 colleagues. I always receive a warm welcome. Upon arrival at their office they each proceed to stand from their desks in unison and to greet me with a double-cheek kiss, forming a receiving line in doing so. This becomes a lengthy and repetitive process resulting in the receiving of each individual’s welcome feeling formulaic — I also feel more than a little awkward at being on show. How best to reduce this anxiety while not wishing to reject their warmth?
— P.B., London, NW1
A. There is truth in the predictable answer when in Rome — but is this really a problem or are you subconsciously using Dear Mary as a means to proclaim your popularity? If you are bothered by the display of affection (or politeness) you can side-step it by saying you have been in Africa recently and your doctors have advised minimal physical contact. Otherwise grin and bear it.