Dear Mary

Dear Mary: my niece hasn’t returned the small sum I lent her

Plus: whether a celebrity friend should dye his hair, and Six Nations etiquette

12 March 2016

9:00 AM

12 March 2016

9:00 AM

Q. My niece, who came to stay with me in the country for the weekend, arrived without cash and asked me to lend her some for the tip. I lent £30 which she assured me she would give back immediately, but though we live very near each other in London, she has failed to drop it round to me. It’s not that I’m desperate for the £30, it’s the principle. How, without being schoolmasterly, should I convey my disapproval so my dear niece, for her own sake, can clean up her act?
— Name and address withheld

A. Next time you see your niece, bring £30 out of your wallet and hand it to her saying solemnly, ‘I think it’s very bad form not to repay a loan within the agreed timespan so I feel ashamed to have taken so long to give this back to you.’ When she asks to what debt you are referring, affect to look muddled. Then exclaim, ‘Gosh, I’m getting absent-minded. You owe me £30! Quick. Let’s go to a cashpoint. Otherwise your conscience will torment you.’

Q. A television presenter friend in his forties is just beginning to go grey. I believe he should make a pre-emptive strike and begin dyeing his hair now. He just laughs at the idea, saying he doesn’t want to impugn his integrity by such fraudulence and that he aspires to be an eminence grise. While his lack of vanity is admirable, I worry that ageism will do for this impeccable man’s career. What is your view, Mary?
— D.S., Cambridge

A. Eminences grises (other than Dimbleby, Paxman and Humphrys) are thin on the ground now that so many male politicians, rock stars etc. dye their hair. By refusing to follow suit, your friend will look much older than his media contemporaries. His stance may have unexpected consequences, as his greyness will be disturbing to contemporaries who might give him work. They may fear it will draw attention to their own age. Encourage your friend to compromise by contacting a salon which creates highlights using vegetable dye. In this way he can avoid the overburnished-conker look sported by Jonathan Ross and Sir Paul McCartney. Hairdressers will make home visits for ‘celebrities’.

Q. Now we are in Six Nations season, please could you remind your readers of proper behaviour as regards tickets to internationals? If a ticket is offered you should accept only if you feel passionate about the game. If it turns out later that you are unable to attend, the ticket nomination must be returned to the original owner. It should never be promised to a third party. The first party may have passed over relatives and good friends to offer you the tickets and it would be galling for them to sit next to a stranger knowing their loved ones are in the car park.
— P.S., by email

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  • bionde

    The non repayment may be followed by the neice saying “Oh lovely. Thank you ” and pocketing the cash!
    Better to stick to neither a borrower nor a lender be. How about saying Oh I seem to have forgotten my wallet. May I have £30? This should prompt her memory and if it doesn’t you can then remember the previous occasion.I find it difficult to mix acts of monetary kindness with relatives as I have had bad experiences, also with friends. I had a boutique in the sixties and let a schoolfrend have a dress at cost although I was quite short of money. I never got it back and in the end I wrote and asked for it. The irony was that she was studying law!

  • Marshal Phillips

    An aging Beatle looking like an overburnished-conker? Oh, Mary!

  • Jean Granville

    Why not send two ex-SAS to recover the cash, and if she doesn’t have it, take her iPhone?

  • FF42

    Propose meeting for lunch or a couple of drinks. Something she and you would like. After she has agreed tell her, shall we say it your turn this time and I can do the next one?

    Probably both she and you are used to auntie providing the presents. This way you establish that you are both adults and equals and the relationship has changed appropriately.

  • AndrewMelville

    Tell her that you she should repay you the money soon, lest you have to pimp her out to migrants to clear the debt.