Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Dealing with your old friends now you’re a big success

Plus: can I take my own teabags on weekend visits?

22 November 2014

9:00 AM

22 November 2014

9:00 AM

Q. Success has come to me in later life with an unfortunate side effect. Since my career has taken off, I cannot see my friends as much as I used to, no matter how dearly beloved they might be. Moreover, on recent occasions when I have managed to see some old friends, it was obvious not only that we are losing shared references but also that they think I am now too rich and grand for them and would rather see ‘celebrities’. When they ask what I have been doing recently (meaning why I have been too busy to see them), I sound like an insufferable snob if I tell the truth. ‘No wonder you’ve got no time for us any more’ is the usual refrain. It’s true that I haven’t got time for them, but I wish I had. The problem is only going to get worse as I get busier. What do you suggest I do?
— Name and address withheld

A. Dame Muriel Spark experienced similar problems with friends in her fifties when her career began peaking. She solved the problem by moving to New York and then Rome. You too could buy a second home abroad. It doesn’t matter if you don’t go there that often — the fact that theoretically you no longer live permanently in the same city as your friends will make the bereavement easier for them to bear, since they can assume that you are abroad, rather than that you are just ignoring them.


Q. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Cartier Racing Awards at the Dorchester, a very glamorous and enjoyable evening where awards are given to the top racehorses in various categories. Although I don’t work in racing, I am a frequent race-goer and have owned horses, including a Classic winner, for more than 30 years. So I was somewhat surprised when a man I know to have no role in racing and no horses in training greeted me with the words, ‘What a surprise to see you here!’ I was furious but could not think what to say to put this patronising man in his place.
— S.T., Chirton, Wiltshire.

A. You should have assumed an especially sympathetic expression, then cooed, ‘Oh poor you. Is that what a lot of people have been saying to you?’ Then, patting him reassuringly, ‘You just ignore them and have a great evening.’

Q. My husband and I, when we go and stay with people in England, like to take our own teabags with us. I don’t want us to get labelled as cranky, but is this acceptable? We prefer Northern Irish blends such as Punjana and Nambarrie, and these brands are generally unavailable in English households.
— H.S., Portadown

A. It is quite acceptable. Your habit is totally harmless. The key is to exhibit excitement about the brand you have brought with you and offer it to others, rather than to pull a grim face when offered the brand your host prefers.

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  • Andrew Smith

    The trusty tool of self-deprecation would help in all three cases!

  • KB1000

    This is like reading something from the 50s. Hyacinth Bucket comes to mind. Is it not English to simply have straightforward, honest conversations with people?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    When you fly the UK coop as the decades pass, you find you have less and less in common with former “best mates” back in the days before you stepped through the looking glass. After a few desultory questions it’s back to football and soaps. Saying something like, “I saw An Sung Suchi speak in Mandalay. She has the popularity that any Brit politician would give his right arm for” just causes people to look away in embarrassment. As the decades you don’t even bother to make contact with former friends, justifying this friendship betrayal with “I I just have the time or patience to make nice with these risk-averse losers.
    Jack, Japan Alps

    • jjjj

      Zzzzzzz…..

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Front runner for the most pointless contribution of the week.

  • Picquet

    Punjana? Nambarrie? I’m surprised you have friends.

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