Dear Mary

Dear Mary

10 June 2017

9:00 AM

10 June 2017

9:00 AM

Q. We have received a ‘save the week’ card from friends who take a villa abroad every year. We usually like their other guests but my husband has developed a near-phobia of one of their friends, a man who holds opposing political views from his own and is vocal about them. This man is in great demand socially, probably because he’s single and supposedly eligible, and we suspect he may be going too. My husband says that whatever the result of the election, he can’t face being trapped in a house party with this man for a week and won’t go if he is. I think my husband is behaving badly — obviously, when the firm invitation comes in, I can’t say: ‘We’ll only come if X isn’t.’ But how can I find out if he is even on the guest list without rudely asking before I give our reply?
— Name and address withheld

A. Confide your dilemma in a friend who also knows this man. Ask her to invite him to dinner during the week in question. If he accepts, so much the better. If he says no, he is abroad with the so-and-sos, your silly husband can decide whether to put up or shut up before you accept or decline.


Q. Someone who should know better (indeed does know better, but is mischievous) keeps posting pictures and short films of small private parties on to Instagram. She did it at a birthday dinner for me. We saw her taking pictures but had no idea she would later put them up, ‘creatively’ edited. The problem was, we had kept quiet about it because we could only invite 20 people, and some of her followers who saw them were hurt that they hadn’t been invited. At the time we said nothing — the harm was done. But what can we do at the next small dinner we are having in the same West End club? How, without seeming officious, can we say something when she starts snapping? Everyone else will be snapping too, but they wouldn’t dream of posting anything.
— C.B., London SW3

A. Tease instead of reprimanding. Simply put mini notices next to everyone’s place card at the table saying: ‘It is politely requested that no photos taken at this party are posted on social media.’ As they sit down, your other guests will (by collusion) retort that they had no intention of doing so. ‘Thanks,’ you should say as you all smile pointedly at the offender and chorus with the others: ‘Because if we did, all the people who haven’t been invited would feel paranoid.’

Q. I work slavishly hard catering for my husband and his friends. I enjoy cooking but none of them have any idea how much effort I put into creating these deceptively simple dishes, never mind about all the shopping and washing up. What do you suggest?
— Name and address withheld

A. Absentmindedly wear a large cook-style apron. The recipients of your hospitality will begin to twig.

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