Dear Mary

Mary solves your problems: A secret school scrapbook discovered by the housemaster

6 January 2018

9:00 AM

6 January 2018

9:00 AM

Q. At my son’s school the boys keep a clandestine leatherbound book known as ‘The Bible’, a sort of Rogues Gallery which, inter alia, keeps a detailed account of various misdemeanours and advice on how to circumvent school regulations. It is handed down from year to year, and one of my son’s friends was caught with it by his housemaster. The school believes that this kind of insubordination runs against the ethos of the school and have asked for the boy’s father to destroy the book. I think it is a well-written, amusing account of school life that bucks the trend of political correctness and encourages creativity. It is also a critical historic document, but the father feels he is under some obligation to destroy it, having undertaken to do so. I believe the school was cowardly to push the responsibility on to the father and he should hand it down to future generations. Who is right, Mary?
— T.W., London EC3

A. You are right and the school must know this. The other parent must take two photocopies of the book, destroy one of them and donate the other to be archived in the school library under a 30-year rule. The Bible should go quietly back into circulation. In this way the father will help the cowardly school to save face while engineering the best outcome.


Q. I know that many of your readers have experienced embarrassment over a failure to remember names when required to introduce someone, so may I pass on a recent exchange I overheard at a 70th birthday party? ‘Oh dear, I have forgotten my own name. Could someone remind me of it? Really? Fancy! And what is your name? Thank you. And yours? Thank you, I feel quite refreshed now.’ Would that work? It could continue, ‘And who is this other guest?’ (Pointing to spouse.) ‘But we’ve been married 30 years!’ ‘Then it’s time we were introduced.’
— B.T., London SW5

A. Thank you for sharing this splendid interchange.

Q. Regarding the letter from your correspondent who was going to attend a golden wedding celebration where the invitations had asked for no presents, the solution would have been for the party-givers to put a note on the invitation saying something like: ‘No presents, please, but a donation to Charity X would be much appreciated.’
— T.F., Leeds

A. Unfortunately such a diktat, though well meant, is not only a tad sanctimonious, but it also puts even more pressure on guests to make competitive displays of generosity, since the amount of money donated is spelt out in a more graphic way than with a standard present. The spirit of party-giving should be all about generosity on the part of the host and there should be nothing about paybacks expected from the guests.

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