Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary: how do I stop our cousins’ dog peeing on the curtains?

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Q. I have a friend whom I see quite often who keeps asking me if I will ‘get her invited’ for a weekend to the beautiful and luxurious country house of another friend. The country-house host is a long-standing friend and she barely knows the friend who wants to be invited. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting they invite her but am under constant pressure to do so. I am very fond of this first friend but am really embarrassed that she cannot see how pushy she is being and I don’t know how to get her to stop going on about this. What should I do?

– F.G., Bath

A. Next time the pushy friend chivvies you, put the ball into her own court. Say: ‘I am sure she would love to have you. You just need to gee her up a bit and let her get to know you. Why don’t you ask her to lunch or the opera or something? Then she’s sure to remember to ask you.’

Q. To be blunt, our elder daughter’s godfather is as rich as Croesus. (He and my husband were at university together.) Our friend is always coming to stay and saying: ‘Sorry I’m an absolutely hopeless godfather. I haven’t brought anything,’ and the temptation is to reply: ‘Yes you are hopeless, you have literally never given her a present.’ Mary, can you think of anything subtle that could be said or done? He is unmarried, so has no wife to nag him. By the way, we like him very much.

– Name and address withheld

A. Next time he mentions that he is a hopeless godfather, reply that your husband would be too if he had to remember Christmas and birthdays. Add: ‘Instead he has taken the practical step of instructing his lawyers to accommodate his godchildren in his will. So he never needs to worry.’ This may prompt your Croesus-rich friend to do the same.

Q. Next month some older and slightly eccentric cousins, whom we love, will be making their annual three-day trip down south to stay with us for Ascot because we live only 12 miles from the racecourse. Our problem, which we are hoping you can help us with, is that they bring their male lurcher, which without fail cocks its leg on our hall curtains every time he comes in or out of the house. For some reason they deny it point-blank.

– H.S., Maidenhead

A. Be doubly pleasant to your guests, but prepare for their visit by dropping each of the hall curtains into a black plastic refuse sack, bulldog-clipped to half way up the curtain. In this way they can still be opened and shut but are out of range of the ‘jet stream’. If the cousins query the bags’ presence, smile and change the subject.

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

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