Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do we thank a friend when we’ve forgotten what they sent us?

23 January 2021

9:00 AM

23 January 2021

9:00 AM

Q. Following the birth of our child we were deluged with cards, gifts and money from kind family and friends. Regrettably, our system for keeping track of everything failed in the case of one card which arrived several months after the birth. We cannot remember whether this contained a small enclosure of money or if it was ‘merely’ a card. To make matters worse, we have delayed sending a thank-you note as we have been unsure how to approach the situation and we are now embarrassingly late.

We do not have a phone number for the individual concerned, who lives far away, and there are no obvious mutual friends to enlist to help. We struggle to think how to word a thank-you card that would be appropriate whether or not money was sent. Mary, can you help with our predicament?
— Name and address withheld

A. Write and thank the sender for their ‘thoughtfulness’ as this could cover the card AND money if that were the case. Keep the thanks brief and move swiftly on to give updates of the baby’s progress and to enquire after the sender’s news.

Q. May I say that your advice to a 6ft 6in correspondent to wear a crash helmet while getting used to a low-beamed cottage (Dear Mary, 9 January) carries some danger? I once visited an old lead mine in Weardale and was told to wear a hard hat. Once into the mine gallery I bashed my head on a beam so hard that I felt it for days after in my neck. The problem is that we automatically know where the top of our head is and can roughly estimate how close we are to an obstruction, but when you put a hard hat on, the top of your head effectively becomes about 3in higher. Mary, I would suggest your correspondent wears a ‘flat hat’ with some extra padding, which would cushion the much smaller shock you would normally get from bumping your head.
— N.J.S.E., County Durham

A. Thank you for sharing your experience of this problem. Another correspondent, E.S. of Ripe in East Sussex, knew of a similar scenario in a low-beamed cottage wherein tall guests banged their heads. In the end the owner upholstered the beams.

Q. Regarding your junior correspondent who is embarrassed by having to shout the name ‘Zulu’ when calling to heel his grandmother’s black labrador (Dear Mary, 9 January), I should like to point out that on the African continent the Zulu tribe is regarded as singularly noble and aristocratic, a fact of which the grandmother’s generation would have been aware.
— A.C., London W8

A. Indeed, the grandmother would have been aware of this — but there is always the danger that the average modern dog walker is not and that he or she may be an ‘offence seeker’.

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