Dear Mary

Dear Mary

13 May 2017

9:00 AM

13 May 2017

9:00 AM

Q. My 23-year-old son has taught himself to play the piano, learning the theme tune to The Truman Show without lessons. But it is the only thing that he has learned, and now he plays it every time he walks through our hall, driving the whole family mad. How can I end this purgatory without denting his confidence or his enthusiasm for music?
— S.H.,Woodborough, Notts

A. Buy your son an electric keyboard with headphones so that he can develop his potential privately in his own bedroom and hopefully increase his repertoire.

Q. I’ve met too many people and now need to cull some of the peripheral admirers. How can I nip these friendships in the bud without hurting any feelings?
— Name and address withheld


A. Buy a worthy, dense and demanding book. You might try In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations by Jerry Mander (458 pages), or choose a work you know. Send copies to the intended cullees with a note that you can’t wait to hear their detailed response after reading it as you are sure it will confirm that they are very much on your wavelength. It’s likely that your fans will be unable to put in the man hours and will begin to avoid you in case they are put on the spot with awkward questioning. Those who rise to the challenge deserve a second chance.

Q. My wife and I perennially battle over whether or not to bring back a gift from visits overseas for our well-remunerated cleaner. I do not wish to have my holidays disrupted to find and fund a present for someone simply doing her job. My wife insists ‘everybody does it’ and that she cannot risk losing invaluable help by being mean-spirited. Can you resolve this 40-year-old battle?
— J.M., Salisbury, Wilts

A. Your wife is correct. Good cleaners are virtually impossible to replace and this is precisely the sort of appreciation they crave. The solution is to pre-order a likely item online from the country in question and hide it, ready to be presented to your cleaner on your return.

Q. When driving a friend up to Scotland I couldn’t help noticing his bad breath. I had chewing gum in the glove compartment but he kept refusing it, saying he was ‘all right’. How could I have forced him to accept without giving the game away?
— R.H., address withheld

A. You might have said that you were finding after 30 chews, that the flavour had completely gone and you were thinking of complaining. Could he give you a second opinion even if he spat it out after 30 chews?

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