Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary: how do I avoid inviting someone to my hen do?

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Q. I did a one-year cookery course in London a couple of years ago and then set myself up in business. Someone I know, who did the course prior to me and is an established dinner-party caterer, has been passing on to me work she can’t do (if she already has a booking on that night, for example). A couple of these people have told me they prefer my style of cooking and won’t be using her again. This puts me in an awkward position and I don’t know how to explain that I am getting repeat business from her introductions.

– S.R., Wantage

A. Business is business and it could drive more salt into any perceived (by you) wound if you don’t acknowledge these switchover clients. Write a breezy email saying: ‘Thank you so much for the introductions to X and Y. Would you like me to pay a commission, as I’ve had repeat business from them? And perhaps you could do the same if I put any business your way?’ This suggests an even playing field and sidesteps any idea of superiority on your part.

Q. An elderly friend, who I’m very fond of, has started sending me photos of what he considers interesting newspaper articles via email. This started as a trickle but has now become something much more and I simply don’t have the time or desire to read them all. More often than not he will follow up by telephoning and I think he enjoys the sparring, as we have very different political views. In any case it’s awkward having these sorts of conversations in an open office. How can I stem the tide?

– E.S., Edinburgh

A. Try changing the nature of your debate from PMQs to long-form interview. Send your friend a heavy-going but relevant political tome and suggest he calls you at home when he has finished reading it.

Q. I’m getting married later this year and want to start planning my hen weekend. I’m part of a WhatsApp group of girls who were all at university together and from comments made it seems that everyone has presumed they will be part of the celebration. There are at least two whom I don’t want to invite as we’ve slightly grown apart, but I’m caught in an awkward situation of not knowing how to wriggle out of having the whole lot. Can you think of a tactful way of not including them?

– Name and address withheld

A. Ask another friend, unknown to most of the members of the university WhatsApp group, to nominally take full charge of your hen event and to do this in a separate group. You can blame any exclusions on her. But don’t worry – many single women regard hen weekends as a stealth tax on singletons imposed by smug soon-to-be marrieds. The excluded ones will probably be delighted to be spared, through no fault of their own, the expense and forced jollity.

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