Dear Mary

Dear Mary

Plus: How to say thank you for a disgusting meal, and friends and cleaners

28 March 2015

9:00 AM

28 March 2015

9:00 AM

Q. When sending wedding invitations, does one put the full titles on the card, or can one just put, for example, Jane and John having addressed the envelope to Mr and Mrs John Smith? Isn’t it strange that all one’s old wedding invitations are nowhere to hand when one needs them? I would really appreciate your advice.
— K.T., Sherborne, Dorset

A. I have it from the highest authority that these days first names on the cards themselves are perfectly acceptable.


Q. A client whose wife has left him invited me to dinner at his new flat. He presented me with three fairly disgusting courses, all ‘cooked’ by himself, one of which featured raw giant prawns (still grey) in unheated cook-in sauce (I saw the packet in the kitchen bin). I ate everything and, although I suffered no ill effects, I am struggling to write a card to thank him for the ‘delicious’ dinner when I feel a reprimand would be more in order.
— R.C., London W11

A. Why not thank him for the enjoyable evening instead but ask would he mind supplying you with the recipe for the prawn dish? Don’t say why you want it. Having to sit down and think as he lists the ingredients and the preparation time should be enough to ensure self-castigation.

Q. Last year I employed a very competent Polish builder to do various jobs around our house. He was with us on and off for six months during which time we often met his girlfriend, who lives nearby. They were both charming. They invited us to their wedding. We didn’t go as it was in Poland, but gave them a nice present.
Two weeks ago his now wife rang up and asked, did I know anyone locally who needs a cleaner two days a week and who would let her bring her baby to work? I immediately said I need someone myself, offered her £12 an hour, and said she could bring the baby. She said she would think about it and ring me back but, despite my having chased her twice with messages, hasn’t done so. It’s not the money: £12 an hour is near the top of the going rate. My husband thinks there is some sort of cultural confusion and she may well have been upset because she now thinks of us as friends rather than employers. How can I apologise without making things worse?
— Name withheld, London SW12

A. Use cultural confusion to minimise any offence caused. Text her to say sorry to chase but one of your very best friends has got time on her hands and wants to clean for you. Say, ‘I’d much rather have you and I’ve told her I’ve already offered you the job, but can you let me know as soon as possible so she can look elsewhere if you’re definitely coming?’ In this way you will at least reassure her that you were not being patronising since, obviously, your text implies that in England, people do sometimes employ their best friends as cleaners

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