Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary: how do I stop a nosy acquaintance from snooping in my house?

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Q. I’m very fond of a neighbour in our village and we see a lot of each other. She has told me she has got X, an acquaintance of mine, coming to stay and wants to bring her over for a drink before lunch on the Sunday. The trouble is X is a decorator and will ask if she can look around the house. I happen to know that she’s very nosy and indiscreet – but how can I say no?

– Name and address withheld

A. Why not pretend to be enthusiastic about the visit and then, on the day before, ring to say you are longing to see X but cannot possibly have anyone in your house as you have had the rat man in and there are disgusting smells emanating from under the floorboards – can you switch venues to your neighbour’s house?

Q. I was on a 90-minute flight recently in the USA and had just stupidly left my favourite sweater in a shared Uber after a complicated diversion to pick things up from a friend’s rental. After checking in my suitcase, I was still carrying a straw hat, jacket, handbag, mobile phone, carry-on case, plus a heavy book the same friend insisted I take to read on the plane. As soon as I sat down, the woman next to me asked if I could swap places with her husband in another aisle so she could be next to him. I said: ‘I’m sure you have many years with your husband. I have already lost one item and am rather flustered. Also I don’t want to be parted from my things’ (now stored above my seat). Mary, did I do the right thing? The woman did not seem an anxious flyer as she was reading on a Kindle throughout the flight and like me only drank water.

– E.S., Ripe, Sussex

A. Yes you did the right thing, as long as you did it pleasantly. If it happens again, you might say that for superstitious reasons you always like to sit in this particular seat so could her husband ask the passenger next to him to swap places instead?

Q. As a 29-year-old single man who takes women out for dinner, I have often been caught out by expensive bills. On one occasion in London a girl ordered several glasses of the most expensive claret, much to my horror. As a regular at the restaurant, I spoke to the owner afterwards to prevent this from happening in the future. Now when the waiter comes over to take our order, I exclaim, as usual, that we will have a bottle of wine. He asks which one, to which I reply, ‘Bring us something really special.’ The cheapest bottle arrives shortly after.

– H.R., London SW7

A. Thank you for sharing this tip. There’s something wrong with your attitude, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

Write to Dear Mary at dearmary@spectator.co.uk

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