Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I deal with an aggressive Big Issue seller?

9 February 2019

9:00 AM

9 February 2019

9:00 AM

Q. I wondered if you could advise me on a rather embarrassing situation please. I sing in my local Church of England choir and am a lay worship assistant (taking services on the fourth Sunday of the month). My problem is during the ‘sharing the peace’. The majority of the congregation shake hands, but there are two men who insist on kissing the ladies, some of whom are not happy with the situation but are too embarrassed to say anything. I took the service this morning and purposely held out my hand to one of these men, who took it but then insisted on kissing me on the cheek still. Please advise.

— P.V., address withheld

A. The horror of intimacy is a very English problem. Indeed, people have left the church because of the embarrassment even of shaking hands and looking their neighbour in the eye. Why not read aloud during a service the Church of England’s guidance on the practice of wafer intinction during periods of widespread flu? This will both confuse and amuse — so much so that you can slip in a codicil that appears to be part of the official guidance, saying that while kissing during the peace is frowned upon, cautious handshaking is acceptable.


Q. I was invited to a ‘party’ in a nightclub only to find it was a launch for a collection of bags made by the host. I felt rather bullied into buying one. It’s fairly hideous and was expensive. At the time I gushed though so I can’t take it back. What now? — Name and address withheld

A. Have a friend take it back claiming that you gave it to her as a present and it’s unsuitable.

Q. Recently, finding myself short on change, I bought a sandwich for a local — female, i.e. unthreatening — Big Issue seller. Next time I saw her she asked me to buy her a panini; fine, but the specific one she requested came from a shop at the other end of the high street. Having spent 20 minutes of my hour-long lunch break walking to the toastie emporium, I thought I may as well go in for a penny as a pound and purchased also a hot chocolate and mince pie. Today, she practically accosted me on the street and demanded a full English breakfast, again from the distant shop, which cost £12. I earn £8 an hour. I fear bankruptcy if this demanding streak continues — her spot is one I walk past every day, with no alternative route. My conscience will be troubled if I ignore her.

— V.H., Bucks

A. The whole point of the Big Issue is that the people selling copies enhance their low self-esteem by performing a useful service, not begging. In handing over sandwiches and panini you are treating this lady as a beggar. Simply buy a Big Issue every week and desist from the panini provision and your conscience will be clear.

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