Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 8 May 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary....

Q. A friend who invited me to stay for a few days in France has told me I can get a lift in the plane of one of the other guests. I am a nervous flyer at the best of times and particularly nervous at the thought that the plane-owner, whom I do not know well but who has an aura of recklessness about him, might be at the wheel. How can I delicately find out whether it will be he or a proper pilot with braid on his shoulders? Should the former be the case and my destiny be in the hands of the plane’s owner, I would rather go No Frills but No Kills.

K.L., Wantage, Oxfordshire

A. Ring up the hospitable plane-owner to thank him for his offer and to get details of departure times, et cetera. Then say, ‘Congratulations! I didn’t know you had a pilot’s licence!’ He may well reply, ‘Oh, I won’t be flying myself. We’ll have a couple of pilots taking us down there.’ If he confirms your worst suspicions, ring back an hour later to announce that sadly you have looked at your diary and will have to travel separately.

Q. My husband has developed an appalling new habit in which he bares his teeth. It started as a joke — we all screamed because he looked so hideous; now it has almost turned into an involuntary facial tic. When other people are present, for example at dinner parties, how can I remind him that he is pulling this awful face without turning myself into a bit of a shrew?

M.W., Wiltshire

A. Take a close-up of your husband’s face while he is baring his teeth, then nip along to Boots with it. They do a fine line in printing photographs on to plates, mugs and placemats at budget-friendly prices. You could have a set of placemats of your husband’s grimace knocked up at almost no cost, but since these would then be covered with plates of food when you were at table it would probably be better to have a plate made, which could be wall-mounted near the table and within your husband’s field of vision. This would obviate the need for him to pull the face himself and you should soon see an end to the nuisance.

Q. We have just moved to Dartmoor where the weather is totally unpredictable. Friends coming to stay get annoyed with us if we advise them to bring anoraks and Barbours on the moor and then they don’t need them and get hot and sweaty carrying them — particularly if there are children involved who can’t be trusted to carry their own kit. The alternative is to risk catching pneumonia if the weather changes. Can you recommend a brand of lightweight dirt-cheap anorak which one can buy up in bulk?

Name withheld, Scorhill, Devon

A. Do not bother going to the expense. Now that summer is on its way simply buy a roll of heavy-duty king-sized garden refuse sacks. Cut holes for the head and arms, leaving the excess for makeshift headscarves. In this way you can carry waterproof clothing for a dozen people with the whole weighing less than a kilogram.