25 SEPTEMBER 1993, Page 55


Q. My husband and I live in the country most of the time though we occasionally spend a night in London. For this purpose we keep a flat in Knightsbridge. It seems selfish and pernickety not to make the flat freely available to a parade of more needy friends when we are not using it, yet even the most reliable people seem to do minor acts of vandalism each time they stay. How can I say 'no' without making myself unpopular?

Name withheld, Stow-on-the-Wold A. Why not claim to have let the flat to an Imaginary lodger who is paying 'through the nose' so that even though the arrange- ment stands that you and your husband can continue to stay on your visits to London you cannot reasonably ask him to put up with a transient stream of other waifs and strays?

Q. I am a 3I-year-old bachelor. For finan- cial reasons I am buying a flat in Notting Hill Gate which is far larger than I actually need for myself but would be ideal if I ever got married. How can I stop hopeless

Dear Mary. . .

freeloaders and layabouts (i.e. most of my friends) from saying, 'Hey! Wow! Can I come and stay in one of your spare bed- rooms?' when I show them round? The rea- son I don't want them to come is that I like to see my friends when I want to see them and not to have to see them because they have moved in. Also, I can't stand other people's messes.

A. Show your friends round with chuckling equinamity, but when they say, 'Hey! Wow! Can I come and stay in one of your spare bedrooms?' reply darkly, 'Look, it's very A.D., W.8

difficult at the moment because I am hav- ing an affair with a girl who doesn't want anyone to know about us, and she would absolutely freak if someone stayed the night.' You can refuse to be drawn on the topic but imply that the girl is also romanti- cally linked with another man whom she is attempting to leave.

Q. I regularly commute by train to and from London and would welcome your advice on how I can avoid sitting with peo- ple I know if I pass them on my way through the train.

P.W., Bosham A. Greet such people with enthusiasm, then say regretfully, 'I won't sit with you because I'm about to get some disgusting junk food from the buffet and I wouldn't want to sub- ject you to the smell.'

Mary Killen

If you have a problem, write to Mary Killen, clo The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, Lon- don, WCI 2LL.