Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I survive a house with shared bathrooms?

Plus: Telling LOLs apart, avoiding flirts on the Caledonian Sleeper, and how to dodge a corsage

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

Q. I am anxious about a forthcoming house party to which several people in my friendship group have been invited. Our friend’s father is the host. I have met him before and he could not be kinder but his historic house is unmodernised so we will have to share bathrooms. I have always had a phobia about this — so much so that I am considering cancelling; yet there will be amazing people there — another reason I don’t want to share a bathroom. Please advise, Mary.
— Name and address withheld

A. Why not simply take a vow of constipation? Cut your weekend down to two days and you will find this self-denial is perfectly manageable.

Q. I would really love an explanation of the meaning of ‘LOL’ as used by the young in their illiterate text messages. Sometimes it seems to mean ‘Laugh out Loud’, at others ‘Lots of Love’. Can you clarify, Mary?
— L.C., Wiveliscombe


A. It is the positioning that holds the clue. Irony or humour is hard to convey in a text message hence the young insert emoticoms, the words ‘haha’ or even an exclamation mark. LOL as in ‘laugh out loud’ usually comes after something comical, whereas ‘lots of love’ will come at the end of a text or email before sign off.

Q. Do you have any opinions on the wearing of ‘corsages’ by female members of the bride and groom’s close family at weddings? I have never come across it before and my instinct is very much against. My daughter, the bride, is the first of her cohort to marry and is not au fait with wedding etiquette but she too is dubious. What should I do if pressure is put upon me to wear a corsage?
— Name and address withheld

A. Insist that your real or imaginary stylist has insisted that the addition of a corsage would make your outfit far too busy. Since she is ‘temperamental’, you would rather keep the peace on the big day.

Q. I am soon to be taking the Caledonian Sleeper to Glasgow for a holiday in the Western Isles. There is a shortage of berths on the train and my host has asked me to share a two-person cabin with a rather drunk and flirtatious man as this will be the only way he can avoid sitting up all night. I don’t feel I can say no but how can I avoid him making advances to me in the cabin?
— Name and address withheld

A. If you commandeer the top bunk for yourself, this should create a problem with access. You can also pre-empt an overture by insisting you read the flirtatious drunk a short account of the island you are visiting. He will settle onto his own bunk to hear you out and if drink has been ‘taken’, he will soon be fast asleep, lulled into stupefaction by the gentle rocking of the train.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • davidshort10

    Fly instead.

  • One can ‘vow’ constipation? Good lord. Can one vow not to wee as well? I can do self-denial with the best of them, but there are limits! And what if the lady wants to shave her legs? Wash her hair? Clean her teeth? I don’t share a bathroom at home, never mind with non-family!

    By the way, I have never seen LOL used to means lots of love. And it’s not because I only get hate mail.

  • John P Hughes

    The photograph is of a steam train on the West Highland Line, run for tourists in high summer. It is not of picture of the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Glasgow (or the West Highlander to Fort William), which is made up of air-conditioned mk 3 coaches built in the 1980s. Photo editor to do better, please….

    • Malcolm Stevas

      Not a chance – the entire periodical publishing industry is addicted to free or dirt cheap imagery sourced through the degraded stock-image market and they couldn’t care less whether pictures are accurate – or even add usefully to the information conveyed.

      • ptd006

        Correct. Also, the steam train puffing up the valley does looks oh so more romantic.

        I am embarrassed to comment on this article, as it reveals I’ve wasted a few minutes of my precious life on drivel. Similarly for this comment 🙁

        • blandings

          Nonsense!
          Mary’s advice is invaluable. So much so,that I cut out each article and preserve it in a carefully indexed and cross-referenced file. I never leave home without my Mary.
          The rest of the Spectator is of course thrown away after the dog has finished with it.

          • johnhenry

            I thought “Empress” was a pig; but it’s been decades since I last spent time at your place.

          • blandings

            The Empress is indeed a pig, a very proud pig and the fattest at last year’s County Show.
            She can find no use for The Spectator, soiled or otherwise – innate good breeding I suppose.

  • Annie

    Tell him you need a lie down because of periods or the menopause. It gives them the heebie jeebies, works a treat.

  • Mary Ann

    Doesn’t want to share a bathroom, who does she think she is?

  • Simon

    Good heavens! I know it’s not the dark ages, but the lady (I am assuming it’s a woman) who can’t share bathrooms really does need to get a grip of life and develop some perspective. I’d have had no end of problems through school, military, and university if I’d had such reservations. Grin and bear it! (Or, failing that, biscuits brown were very effective at assisting with the ‘vow of constipation’ taken before exercises on Dartmoor).

Close