4 AUGUST 2007, Page 38

Your Problems Solved

Dear Maly Q. I was recently a weekend guest at a very large house. A series of unfortunate incidents meant I arrived at the house with no cash to leave for the cleaner at the end of the weekend. There were no cashpoints for miles around and to ask my host to drive me to one would have, I know, annoyed him. Although I stripped the bed myself and made sure the room was spotless, I fear it did not make up for the lack of wonga. Should I send the money now by post? Was there anything else I could have done at the time?

E.W., Kensington A. You need not have dealt with the room yourself Instead you should have asked for the name of the person who would be cleaning it. You could then have left, propped up on your dressing table, a sealed envelope addressed to her: Inside she would find a note of thanks from you for her help towards making your weekend so comfortable and enjoyable and an assurance that you would be sending her 'something' as soon as you get home. In this way the cleaner would have a triple thrill: 1) the thrill of written appreciation of her work; 2) the thrill of anticipation; 3) the thrill of the cash prize itself Q. I have a six-year-old goddaughter, the child of an old friend. Fond as I am of my goddaughter and her parents, the lack of any word of acknowledgement or thanks from daughter or parents for my latest Christmas and birthday presents to her (chosen with some trouble and expense) has left me feeling somewhat taken for granted and put out. Of course, I realise that regular presentbuying is one of a godparent's obligations — perhaps the only one taken very seriously these days — but even so, I feel some gesture is now called for to express my feelings about this apparent lack of appreciation. A simple present-giving strike on the next occasion is tempting but is open to misinterpretation and would probably be going too far. How can I make my feelings clear without creating too great an offence?

M.M., London 5W5 A. Serial failure to give feedback in response to presents received sends godparents through an unwelcome trajectory of emotions taking in disappointment, anxiety and irritation and culminating in bitterness. Inevitably they begin to channel their financial favours elsewhere. Clearly the parents are doing their child a disservice by not insisting she writes. It is your duty as a godparent to call them to task Next time ring and ask whether you can deliver your present in person saying pleasantly, fAt least that way I can be sure it has arrived — unlike the last two presents.' Then stay silent while the parent babbles his or her excuses. Stem their flow by empathising that it must indeed be difficult to 'convey to a child the abstract concept of presents not received in the future as a result of presents not acknowledged in the past'. You, however; would like to help ensure that she does not miss out in future so you su est that you swing by Smythson on your way over and pick up some pretty stationery to incentivise the dear little person. You can even stand over her while she writes her first one to you. In the long run her parents will thank you for this intervention.

If you have a problem write to Dear Mary, cio The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP.