16 MAY 1992, Page 47


Q. My co-worker is a continual irritant, staring and looming over me with a daily barrage of criticism, self-puffery, interfer- ence and unsolicited advice. Responding increases the verbal flow, while ignoring it offers no respite whatsoever. I'd feel sorry for her — her job is her life — if I didn't feel so victimised myself! Our employer, whose job said co-worker once held on an interim basis, doesn't want to know. My predecessor quit in frustration. Please tell me there's another option.

J.S., SW1 A. Keep a giant ledger open on your desk. Then when your co-worker begins her bar- rage you can say sweetly: 'Oh do please write down your advice. I'm sure to forget it otherwise.'

Q. How can I reply effectively to those unnecessary remarks, 'You must come round for a meal some time,' and 'You haven't been round to see us for ages,' when their very use confirms that neither party has much in common with the other?

R.C.A., Marchamley, Shrewsbury

Dear Mary. . .

A. Reply ambiguously, 'Yes, why don't we arrange something?' before changing the subject. If pushed, then suggest, 'We've shot some wonderful film of autumn colour. There are lour hours of it so maybe we should come one evening at about six so we could watch it for two hours before sup- per and then finish watching it after supper. Do ring when you feel like seeing it.'

Q. Like countless others, I have a terrible memory for names and consequently strug- gle for terms with which to address friendly but forgotten faces.. While 'darling' and 'my dear' suffice surprisingly often for members of the opposite sex, 'squire' and 'sir' for

other men are too horribly jocular, fit only for the saloon bar and the lesser sort of golf club. 'Mate' is obviously beyond the pale; ('dear boy' fits the bill from time to time but over-use may lead to one being consid- ered homosexual or a luvvie). That great bloodstock agent Frankie More O'Ferrall used to address all-corners as 'friend'. Com- ing from him it seemed dignified and appropriate but I don't seem able to quite get away with it. Can you suggest some polite form of address to drop into the con- versation until such time as the penny final- ly drops?

J.L., Dublin A. How about 'boss'? The flattery implied by this term can only be interpreted favourably no matter where, in terms of rank, you and your addressee stand in rela- tion to each other.

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

Mary Killen