6 NOVEMBER 1999, Page 87


Dear Mary.. .

Q. My husband and I have quite recently acquired a yacht which affords us much plea- sure. We enjoy inviting friends to accompany us on cruises in various parts of the world but we are unsure what should be the correct response when people approach us at parties and demand, with varying degrees of subtle- ty, an invitation aboard. We are quite capa- ble of deciding for ourselves whom we would like to invite. What do you suggest, Mary?

Name and address withheld A. Next time the abuse occurs, beam excit- edly and say, 'Actually, we were thinking of inviting you. We're having a charity do on the yacht. The tickets are quite pricey at £5,000 each but it's in a really good cause. Would you like to come?' Then watch their faces collapse into an expression of pro- found bitterness.

Q. I absolutely love every single word that Auberon Waugh writes. Not only is he always so funny but he also seems to be right about everything, including Europe. I would love to convey to him my genuine apprecia- tion for the amount of happiness he gives me but am hesitant to write as I have heard that only mad people write such fan letters to complete strangers and I do not want to he stigmatised as such by my great hero. How can I get round this problem?

A.C., London W8 A. The solution is perfectly simple. Gift sub- scriptions to the Literary Review, of which Mr Waugh is editor, cost £30 per year. Apply for one of these. It would not be a sign of mad- ness to enclose, along with your cheque, a handwritten letter of appreciation, provided, of course, this was couched in moderate tones. Make the cheque out for the wrong amount of money. In this way you may be lucky enough to bypass the circulation man- ager and hear directly from your hero as he kills two birds with one stone by thanking you for your comments at the same time as requesting a new cheque for the correct sum.

Q. I am a fortyish bachelor with a wondet- ful, old-fashioned daily who comes to clean my house each week and iron my shirts. I wash my shirts myself, using fabric condi- tioner for that fresh, soft feel-and-smell. Recently, she has taken to removing the shirts to her own establishment rather than

ironing them on site. I suspect that she rcwashcs them, as they are returned days later, beautifully ironed and folded, smelling of smoke and chip fat. Mary, ladies like this are hard to find and impossi- ble to replace. She prefers to iron at home, How can I explain my concerns without causing offence to her or, worse still, losing her altogether?

J.B., Newmarket, Suffolk A. Tell your lady that your social life is now so hectic that you sometimes need to change shirts four times a day for four dif- ferent occasions. Put out four shirts for her to do on site each time she comes so that you will have them ready to wear that day. Allow her to take the rest of the shirts home. After a couple of weeks of her iron- ing four shirts a day on site, there will be no backlog for her to take home and she will therefore be unable to take offence.

Q. Your reply to A.B. (11 September), who had a problem with tooth marks left after biting into an item of food, misses the point that a gentleperson always breaks bread at table; it is impolite to bite off a morsel and pull the remainder out of the mouth.

C.D., Tollesbuty, Essex A. Thank you for reminding readers of this method of coping with sandwiches.