Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Should I give my postman a Christmas present?

12 December 2020

9:00 AM

12 December 2020

9:00 AM

Q. I am extremely fond of an artist friend, despite the fact that I have never liked her work or bought any of it. I always had the excuse that it was too big for my house. Unfortunately she has given me an early Christmas present of one of her smaller paintings, about 2ft square, and clearly expects me to hang it where it can be seen by all. Mary, it is not to my taste but I do not want to undermine her fragile self-confidence by not hanging it. What is the solution?
— Name and address withheld

A. Take the painting to a framer and ask that a mirror in dusky Georgian glass be affixed to the back of it so that the artwork can be ‘reversible’. You can never have enough mirrors. In this way you can still hang the painting — perhaps in your hallway — but with the mirror section facing outwards. When you know she is coming to visit, flip it around so that her painting appears to enjoy pride of place.

Q. We live in Western Australia, where the only Covid restrictions that affect us are interstate travel, which means that our children and grandchildren will not be spending Christmas with us this year. The upside is that for once we can have a quiet time with no pressure to do anything. However, all our lovely neighbours have decided we need company for Christmas and New Year and are insisting we spend time over the holidays with them. Although we are very appreciative of their kindness, we would much rather be on our own. How do we do this without hurting anyone’s feelings?
— A.M., Western Australia

A. Tell your well-meaning neighbours that, ironically, this is the one year when you are specifically resisting the chance to socialise. You and your husband are giving each other intense online cookery/gardening/painting courses for Christmas as it’s the one time in your lives that you know you will be able to focus on the course work without interruptions.

Q. We fell out of the habit, many years ago, of giving Christmas ‘boxes’ to the postman, milkman, bin men, etc. This year we have stayed in the country most of the year and I would like to make an effort to express our gratitude for their keeping us going during the various lockdowns. How much cash would be appropriate? I don’t want to overdo it and upstage our neighbours, but £10, which is what we used to give, seems a little nugatory these days.
— M.D., Andover, Hants

A. Having taken a straw poll of other country-dwellers: if you are in the Big House, then £50 per postman and milkman and bin lorry is an appropriate thanks for their heroics during 2020. If you are in a smaller house, then £20 each would be right. Try to get some £5 notes from the bank. These are much appreciated by other delivery drivers.

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