Dear Mary

Dear Mary: What is the etiquette of greeting a friend who is engaged in a ceremonial display?

31 July 2021

9:00 AM

31 July 2021

9:00 AM

Q. Passing Buckingham Palace in a taxi the other day, I saw the ceremonial wing of the Household Division prancing impressively along on horseback. The taxi halted to allow them to pass. As I knew one of the young men socially, I wondered what is the etiquette of greeting a friend who is engaged in a ceremonial display? I can see it would have been disruptive to the integrity of the group if one member had to nod or wave back to somebody, but surely it would have been rude of me not to acknowledge him — even if only to do a ‘thumbs up’? As it happened, I did not catch my friend’s eye, but Mary, what should I do if such a situation arises again?

— M.W., Pewsey, Wilts

A. By all means wave out of friendliness — tourists often do so — but don’t expect a response. Those mounted would not break with protocol in that environment.


Q. I wanted some shirts for the summer that can only be bought in America. Because the company does not ship to the UK, I ordered a few and had them sent to a cousin in America who agreed to send them on to me. This was in March. A few weeks ago I WhatsApped her and asked if she had sent the shirts on. She apologised and said she had forgotten, ‘but I’ll send them now’. They still have not arrived and I feel I cannot ask her again because, in the meantime, she has had a baby and I failed to congratulate her. It seems wrong to WhatsApp her now, three weeks after the baby was born, saying: ‘Congratulations onyour baby and by the way have you sent the shirts yet?’ Mary, what should I do?

— A.H., Woodborough

A. Why not put a traditional congratulations card into a postbox and then WhatsApp your cousin saying: ‘Many congratulations again — I hope you got my card. I know it takes ages for snail mail to cross the Atlantic. By the way, I hope you didn’t have to pay a customs surcharge to send the shirts. If so, let me know and I will refund you. PS: They haven’t got here yet!’

Q. Do I send a postcard to someone with dementia to say thank you for drinks? A mutual friend brought me to meet a distinguished person who made us most welcome and opened a very good champagne for us all. I would normally always write after such hospitality, especially when visiting for the first time, but I fear she may be baffled if I do so, as she kept asking me to remind her who I was. Mary, what do you suggest?

— Name and address withheld

A. Yes, you should write. It is very helpful for someone with dementia to receive postcards. It means they can display them on their mantelpieces, and because the postcards signal that other people are looking out for them, their carers are less likely to exploit them.

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