3 MAY 1997, Page 63


Dear Mary. .

Q. My old nanny is now retired but lives round the corner. My problem is that she is so kind: every time I tell her a friend of mine is expecting a baby, she produces, two days later, a packet of beautifully knitted, though garishly coloured baby Clothes in a nylon-wool mix. My friends are always. really touched, but for some reason tend not to write and say thank You. I find this agonising, Mary. What can I do? I could simply forge a thank-you let- ter myself, but then what if she received a genuine one in the post with different handwriting?

Name and address withheld A. Next time this happens, get someone else to knock off a letter and sign it from both members of the couple. That way, should the mother (or father) get around to writing a genuine letter you can say, 'Oh, how funny, he/she must not have known that the other one had already written on behalf of both of them.'

Q. In her column of 19 April, Leanda de Lisle wondered how she could 'have con- veyed both welcome and do not disturb' to three strange girls whom she found walking on her land and who asked, 'Can we use your toilet?'

A. One way of deflecting any possible crime risk would have been to have winked con- cupiscently and said, 'If you wait here I'll just go and ask the master of the house. I'm sure he'll be only too pleased. On the other hand, if you'd rather have some privacy, why not just use the rockery?'

Q. Remembering a recent luncheon of shepherd's pie, Leanda also asked, 'Under what circumstances, dear Mary, is one allowed to ask for tomato sauce in someone else's house? Is the answer, as I suppose, under no circumstances?'

A. Under no circumstances. The trouble is that although tomato sauce or ketchup is used in top houses throughout the land to enhance the flavour of shepherd's and fish pie, were a hostess to have none in her larder, it would disappoint her terribly to think that the food she had prepared for you would not match up to your palate's requirement for the sauce additive. Instead you could have furrowed your brow as the pie was presented and said, 'Now is it you who always insist on serving ketchup with shepherd's pie?' To which your hostess could only have replied, 'Certainly not!' or, `No, it's not me, but what a good idea.' To which you could have replied, 'Oh no, of course it's not you, it's Charlotte so-and-so who always makes a fanatical thing of it.'

Mary Killen