6 JUNE 1992, Page 63


Dear Mary.. .

Q. I have an equally frustrating problem as has R.W. from Nairobi with his Citroens. I live in a narrow, unlit cul-de-sac in a small village in Portugal. There are several hous- es with garages right on the rua and nowhere to turn. I beg my guests to reverse in so that after dinner, when their judgment might be impaired, they can at least see what is in front of them. They seldom take my advice, which means I have to direct them — this often takes ten minutes. I call this my 'left hand right hand down hour'. It is also surprising how few know which is which and, owing to advancing age, some find it difficult to swivel their necks to see what is behind them. As there are often many cars parked close together, each one has to be dealt with separately. You may suggest a teetotal dinner, which I couldn't stand. How would you deal with this prob- lem?

C.B., Praia da Luz, Lagos A. Come to an arrangement with a local youth or even fully-grown man who holds a driving licence and will be willing to stand by in readiness to co-operate with you

around the expected arrival time of your guests. When you issue your invitations to dinner you can mention casually that `Guillermo will be around to help you to park'. As soon as Guillermo sees a car approaching the slit of an entrance to your garage he can come forward and introduce himself and, like a small-time car jockey, offer to reverse the car in for them while they go on up for their first round of judg- ment-impairing drinks. Your guests may be only too willing to tip Guillermo, to avoid manoeuvring into the garage themselves. If they are too mean to tip, they will, no doubt, have learned to effect the reversal process themselves.

Q. In this part of Nigeria, it is hard to find anything decent to read. I mentioned this to some English friends recently and now I am receiving large quantities of the rub- bishy books that people buy at airports (Jackie Collins, Barbara Cartland, that sort of thing). As my Nigerian friends are much more discerning in their literary tastes than the English (they generally speak the lan- guage better as well) and as I am a literary snob, I don't want this pulp on by book- shelves. How can I avoid offending my English friends who ask why their gifts are not displayed alongside Anthony Powell, A.N. Wilson, Anita Brookner and Charles Dickens?

N.A-.I., Cross River State, Nigeria A. Purchase some glass-fronted bookcases for the precise purpose of displaying the pulp fiction your friends have brought you. Line the glass with tapestry or some other visually appealing fabric. In this way you can keep the doors open.while your vulgar- ian friends are present, and closed when