Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I politely turn down friends’ sponsorship requests?

17 August 2019

9:00 AM

17 August 2019

9:00 AM

Q. I want my guests to feel welcome when they stay with us and certainly don’t want to nag them. My problem is with some in-laws who I can only describe as ‘un-housetrained’. It’s fine when they are downstairs where I can keep an eye on them, but their bedroom is a problem. Last time they came they left soaking bath towels on their beds, a window open in a gale and a glass of red wine on the carpet just waiting to be kicked over. They know we don’t have cleaners so there is no excuse for anyone to go into their room other than to snoop, but it drives me mad not knowing what’s happening up there. What do you recommend?
— Name address withheld

A. Why not employ the established bedroom-checking technique as used in many country houses, namely, to keep delivering flowers to the bedrooms? This gives the host an excuse to have a snoop and the chance to make good any risk hazards encountered.

Q. I often receive requests for sponsorship of ‘charitable’ trips, where the real desire is obviously to have others pay for an often very expensive holiday — tellingly always of a type the particular cadger will enjoy — but with a virtue-signalling bonus. I always want to reply that my support will be conditional on their reciprocal backing of a first-class ‘research’ trip to the brothels and bars of Asia by me, but have thus far resisted the temptation. What is a more elegant way to decline?
— M.R., Tibenham, Norfolk

A. It’s best to decide on a charity you know to do excellent work and which you can wholeheartedly support. Let’s say, for example, Orbis, the international sight-saving charity. In this way you can reply to all such requests that you are so sorry but you’ve decided to give every penny you can afford to Orbis (or whatever charity appeals to you) and then send them a link to their webpage.

Q. My mum’s new boyfriend has wormed his way into our house and has now started ‘welcoming’ me into my own home when I come down for weekends. It is infuriating. How can I stop him without causing a bad atmosphere?
— H.R., London SW1

A. Unnerve him by remaining calm as you gush pleasantly: ‘Oh you’re so kind to say that, thank you, especially when it’s I who should be saying it to you!’

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? I recently walked through the tourist streets of Naples entirely unmolested. I realised afterwards that the fact I was carrying two string bags of market vegetables made the likely assailants assume I was a local. The truth was I am an artist and had bought the vegetables to draw them.
— Name and address withheld

A. Thank you for this tip.

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