15 JULY 1995, Page 47


Dear Mary..

I seem to recall that one of your recent cor- respondents had sought advice on how to terminate unwanted telephone calls from double-glazing salespeople. May I offer a method I have personally devised for get- ting rid of verbose friends? For some time, I have kept a smoke alarm next to the phone. All one needs to do is press the 'test' button when one tires of the conversa- tion, then cry, 'Oh God! That's the chip pan/iron/grill I've left on.' Even the most persistent chatterer can be disposed of using this method. If and when they ring back, one can pretend that the mess is being cleared up. Guilt, of course, is on both ends.

D.G., Canvey Island, Essex A. Thank you; this is helpful. May I take this opportunity to apologise to readers for the recent double insertion of the problem to which D.G. refers?

Q. What is the correct number of times to see a friend?

A.B., London W8 A. At the outset of a friendship it is desir- able to see your new friend as often as possi- ble — say two or three times a week, with or without sexual connection. Once the friend- ship is fully formed, it will be perfectly suitable to meet only once every six or 12 months.

Q. As a mother of young children, I often shudder when forced to use the b-word in relation to their dirty noses. What is the alternative, Mary?

L.G., Fosbury A. Why not use the more stylish French expression 'crotte de nez' when referring to these eyesores?

Q. We have four painters among our acquaintances and their works are well rep- resented on our walls. The other day after lunch, one of them, who has given us a watercolour but from whom we have not purchased anything, took my wife aside and showed her a painting of the two of us and our child which she said was to be part of a sequence. We are appalled at the possibility of having to buy these unsolicited works of art as she is quite expensive. Help!

A.B., Bellac, France A. Next time you see this painter, draw her aside and confidentially bemoan the fact that you will be unable to be the eventual owners of this sequence of paintings. 'It just won't be possible for us to buy it ourselves,' you can grumble, 'as a cousin of mine is at this moment also painting a sequence of portraits of us as a surprise for my wife. She asked me to commission her and I couldn't very well say no. It would be out of the question for me to then go and buy a rival sequence, as my cousin might think it a slight — especially since she is disabled and paints with her toes.'

Mary Killen