28 MARCH 1998, Page 51


Dear Mary.. .

Q. My wife and I live on the third floor of a small block of flats. On the first floor lives a German bachelor who has recently arrived in Singapore and has very few friends. We visited him soon after his arrival because we had heard he had had a motor accident and we felt rather sorry for him. Since then he has done me an enormous favour by organising my computer so that I can listen to Test Match Special over the Internet (this is the only way of hearing it in Singapore). Now he is always 'dropping in' for a chat, which is becoming very tiresome for a num- ber of reasons. One is that, being German, he has a rather limited sense of humour; and another: his conversation is restricted to incomprehensible computer jargon and the merits of Monty Python. How can I deal with this situation? I cannot say we are going out unless we actually are because of the proximity of our homes. I do feel gen- uinely grateful to him but these visits are becoming a strain. Please advise.

B.R., Singapore A. Are you mad? All bachelors, even humourless, computer nerds and especially lonely and kind ones, are at an all-time pre- mium in the age of Bridget Jones. Look through your address book for some pan- icking spinsters from your own immediate family or friends and have one to stay for a couple of weeks. She will snap up a sitting target and take him off your hands in no time.

Q. At a recent memorial service in the Grosvenor chapel, I was frustrated to see so many old friends and be unable to speak to them for, despite strenuous pew-hopping, there were simply too many to get through in the minutes before the service began. What do you recommend, Mary?

L.R.N., London A. Pose as an usher at the next memorial service you attend. In this way you will be able to intercept the maximum number of people on their arrival and process them to a degree sufficient to serve as a springboard for future consolidation.

Q. Since I am insecure about my figure I am loath to ask waiters to fill up a 'doggy bag' when I have been unable to finish per- fectly good food in an expensive restaurant. It seems a terrible waste to let it go straight into a bin, so what is the cool thing to do Mary?

MB., London SW3 A. Few sensitive women are happy about the expression 'doggy bag'. Some dread the waiter retorting, 'But you yourself are a doggy bag, madam.' Others feel it demean- ing to the partially ingested fare to suggest that a dog might be a suitable recipient. Forward-thinking smarties come to restau- rants armed with an empty Gucci or Cutler & Gross spectacle case which they can snap open at a key moment and discreetly line with foodstuffs wrapped in tissue. Mothers in particular find this method useful for transporting back home to their children the luxury handmade chocolates which come with the coffee.