26 SEPTEMBER 1998, Page 71


Dear Mary. .

A. Q. I live with my parents and younger sister in a large house near the local sixth-form college. For many years, we have had lodgers boarding with us. In the past, they have stayed Monday to Friday in their own bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and have been provided with three meals a day. We have always tried to treat them as part of the family, and in return they have been respectful and considerate. However, although our present lodgers behave rea- sonably to my parents, they show another side when they are not around — the majority of the day. The lodgers are gener- ally wasteful and unappreciative, turning radiators full on while leaving windows wide open. They also take advantage of our generosity by staying at weekends and secretly not paying for phone calls. When my sister and I try to explain this to my mum, she sides with them and accuses us of telling tales. This is making our life a mis- ery; we feel unwelcome in our own home. Please, please help. Name and address withheld You can regain your rightful domi- nance over these cuckoos in your nest. Confide in your school counsellor, adding that you really hope the problem will not cause you to develop an 'eating disorder'. These magic words will ensure your moth- er is besieged by anxious busybodies, and forced to take a more serious view of your plight.

Q. I am a journalist. I was initially flattered to receive an invitation to view the spring/summer 1999 collection of a well- known designer during Fashion Week, especially since I have never met the designer in question. Nor have I ever writ- ten about him, or even about fashion for that matter. I accepted the invitation, and was told I would be sitting in the front row. Since I cut the most frumpish and dishev- elled figure, it has now occurred to me that I may be the victim of some sort of practi- cal joke to discredit the designer. What should I do?

Name and address withheld A. Go to the show anyway — it will be exhilarating — but treat the occasion as trench warfare. Your own trench should take the form of an outsize art folder which you can rest on your lap throughout as though protecting vulnerable drawings. In this way, you can be sure of screening off your frumpishness from mischievous photographers.

Q. Due to the poor weather over the last couple of years, I have been unable to amass enough landscape paintings for a forthcoming exhibition in a West End gallery. Since I have a reputation for indo- lence, I would like to extricate myself from this embarrassment without losing face. What can I do at this eleventh hour?

Name and address withheld A. Why not take a tip from the trendy sculptor Gavin Turk, whose recent private view consisted entirely of dustsheets over the works as a 'one-off critique of the con- cept of a private view' (where no one looks at the work anyway). You can upstage Turk by keeping the dustsheets up for the whole run of your show, unlike him who took them off after the first night to expose his three-dimensional pensies.

Mary Killen

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