Dear Mary

Dear Mary

30 September 2017

9:00 AM

30 September 2017

9:00 AM

Q. How can I avoid becoming seen as an ‘Instagram creeper’? My well-meaning niece tells me that I’m in danger of qualifying for this insult. Apparently it means a sort of Peeping Tom who views other people’s postings but never contributes any herself. I joined Instagram a year ago to promote a fundraising event, and it’s true that, though I posted six related images then, I have posted nothing since. But certain friends and acquaintances began following me at that time and so I followed them and now am totally addicted to viewing their indiscreet images of their lunches and holidays and children. I don’t want to post any of my own. For privacy reasons, I never signed up for Twitter or Facebook and the same goes for Instagram.
— Name and address withheld

A. Your niece is correct. To avoid the charge of creeper you must post more images. They need not compromise your security e.g. by showing yourself on holiday or standing in front of priceless paintings in your drawing room. Plenty of toffs post only images of plants, animals or posters for worthy forthcoming events. In this way they justify their foothold in the Peepers’ Gallery.

Q. How can I discourage a friend from licking her forefinger when she turns the pages of a newspaper? I think it’s unhygienic and ‘common’: the Queen wouldn’t do it. My friend would be mortified by any suggestion that she doesn’t know how to behave.
— G.P., Westminster


A. There are practical reasons why finger-licking is considered ‘common’. The finger quickly becomes a portal for bacteria to enter the mouth, and dried saliva actually smells. You could convey her breach of etiquette by subtle means. Purchase a pack of rubber finger cones from a stationery shop. Next time you are together, don one ostentatiously then begin to read the newspaper yourself. Confide that you’ve only just learned that finger-licking is considered naff, so you’re trying to retrain yourself not to do it. You will discard the thimble once the new habit is ingrained.

Q. Your advice to spray leftover food with Pledge to discourage grazing is impossible, as no civilised household would contain the product, due to its ruinous effect on antique mahogany. The correct product to spray on unwanted food is horse liniment, borrowed from the stables.
— M.R., Tibenham, Norfolk

A. Good point. You could equally use spray starch which is found in many civilised households.

Q. May I pass on a tip? There is no need to spend hours shaking cushions in order to plump them. You need only drop them once. This simple action redistributes the contents perfectly.
— S.B., London SW11

A. Thank you for this time-saving tip.

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