23 MAY 1992, Page 63


Q. My husband and I have been invited to a dance following a wedding and, with his agreement, I accepted the invitation. Now my husband says he does not want to come as he will be in Blackpool that week and will have to come back two days early for this party rather than stay down there and continue working on his book. He says that the couple concerned are not close enough friends to warrant the inconvenience and that with 600 other people going no one will notice whether he is there or not. He says 'life is too short to make sacrifices for borderline friends'. This is all very well but I will be forced to make up some lie to the happy couple about why he is not there, as I can hardly tell them the truth. I will then have to either stick to that lie and repeat it 30 or 40 times when friends rush up asking where he is — or tell them the truth and swear them to secrecy. What do you sug- gest, dear Mary?

R.McE., SW3 A. There is no point in conveying secrets in an atmosphere where alcohol is being con- sumed. I suggest that you attend the party and say nothing about your husband's whereabouts. Just swirl around with the

Dear Mary. . .

rest of the mob and carry on as though he were also present. When people say, `Where's Dirk?' (or whatever his name is), wave your hand vaguely towards Blackpool and say, 'He's over there somewhere.' With 600 people milling about, no one will be surprised that they cannot find one of those people, or that they do not see him for the whole evening. Your husband should keep quiet about the fact that he did not go and, when he sees the happy couple later, should say, 'Thank you so much for inviting us to your party. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to say hello to you on the night.' They will reply, 'Oh, don't worry. We didn't even see half the people who were there.'

Q. How should I pronounce the surname

Cecil, when referring to members of that family in conversation? I feel it is a bit of an affectation for me to say `Sissil' when I hardly know any of them. Yet I would not like others to think that I did not know that `Sissil' was the correct pronunciation and pull me up on it. I had the same trouble with 'Althrup' before he succeeded.

R.A., W8 A. Why not sneeze each time you are pro- nouncing the surname? In this way people will think that it was just fortuitous that you pronounced it correctly. (You should never let yourself be tricked into saying `Sissil' Beaton.) Incidentally, the actor Jonathan Cecil uses the phonetic form, as do many friends of the glamorous Lord Michael Cecil.

Q. Now that summer is coming I find the house filling up with daddy-long-legs. What is the best way of dealing with this prob- lem?

G.W., Wilts A. Wear oven gloves to catch these insects without feeling squeamish. Then go to a window and release them.