25 APRIL 1992, Page 55


Dear Mary.. .

Q. My husband and I moved to Balham at the peak of the 1988 property boom. Now we are stuck here in a fortress which is ser- viced by milkmen, mini-cab drivers and gas- meter readers, all of whom seem to suffer from incontinence. Four times per week I open the door to such servicemen to find them asking, 'Can I use your toilet?' as they arrive to do something for us. How can I say no?

J.F. Alderbrook Road, SW12.

A. Keep a note on the inside of your front door which reads 'Be prepared'. When next you swing the door open to receive such a request, simply furrow your brow and glance towards the stairway saying, 'Oh I'm so sorry — both bathrooms are being used at the moment.'

Q. Can you recommend a method of by- passing secretaries and aides when tele- phoning so as to get straight through to the man at the top? I am tired of being fobbed off by underlings who ask if they can help me as the man I want to speak to is 'rather tied up at the moment'. I have an idea for a television series but I cannot get through to Alan Yentob, Controller of BBC 2, to dis- cuss it.

David M. Shepherd's Bush A. You should ring up Mr Yentob's office and say, 'Hello. Could I have a very quick word with Alan?' When the secretary enquires, 'Who's speaking please?' you should half-sing 'David Yentobbbbb.. .' No aide is likely to ask, 'Can I ask what it's in connection with?' In such circumstances you are likely to be put straight through. Yentob himself will take the call as he will be intrigued to hear from a relation he has never met before. Once you are 'through' Yentob will presume his aide misheard your name or even that you gave his name by mistake. In any case he will hardly hang up before you have had a chance to give your spiel.

Q. A chap in the social clique to which I belong is a splendid fellow by anyone's esti- mation. However, he has the most prolific and unsightly growth of nasal hair. How does one broach the suggestion of its removal without causing embarrassment to all the parties concerned?

Name and address withheld.

A. Why not suggest to your friend that he pose for a black and white silhouette por- trait? In this way the artist can draw atten- tion to the unsightly nasal hair you men- tioned in a tactful manner and no repercus- sive embarrassment need attach to you per- If you have a problem, write to 'Dear Mary, The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LL