14 MARCH 1992, Page 55


Dear Mary.

Q. Please suggest a solution to a problem I personally experience at least once a week — this is of running into someone who I know I know, but being quite unable to remember their name or what they do. Flattery and ego-nursing are integral parts of my job (I work in publishing), so you can see how these failures to identify people can be damaging, quite apart from the fact that they are horrendously embarrassing. What should I do? I am beginning to dread going out.

D.L., SWI A. Why not carry permanently in your pocket or wallet a petition in aid of some anodyne cause that anyone would be will- ing to support. There should be spaces for signature, name in block capitals; and work address. You can then withdraw this from your pocket the moment you spy a mystery figure advancing and say fervently, 'How wonderful to see you. May I ask you to sign my petition?' before you launch into any general chat. Another method which can be used by people who do not wear glasses is to stare blankly in the direction of the per-

son who has said hello and reply, 'You'll have to tell me who it is. I haven't got my contact lenses in and l'can't see a thing.'

Q. I don't wish to have to police my guests when they come to stay, so how can I stop them from putting glasses and mugs down on polished tables without being a bore? I find they do it even when you have put out plenty of coasters. One can partly get round it by always serving coffee and tea in cups with saucers, but then people tend to go and make themselves great steaming mugs of tea in the middle of the day.

S.M., Sussex A. The best way to deal with this problem is to hide the mugs where only you can find them so that guests are forced to use cups and saucers to consume the tea they have made. Alcoholic drinks should be served to persistent offenders in glasses with coasters superglued onto the bottom.

Q. I sometimes find myself in the same position as the Queen: strange, common men put their arms around my waist or upper torso when ushering me or introduc- ing me. She managed to show her displea- sure (not that it did any good). How should I? Preferably without giving offence.

C.H., W2 A. Try crying out 'Sorry!' and jumping for- ward when you feel the first signs of dorsal harassment. Then turn and say, 'Oh sorry, it's you. I thought it was someone trying to push past me.' Then laugh pleasantly.

Mary Killen

If you have a problem, write to 'Dear Mary', The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, London, WC1N 2LL