Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Do I have to display my friend’s awful painting?

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

Q. A long-standing artist friend, whose work now commands high prices, has sent me out of the blue a present of one of her paintings. She clearly didn’t realise after all these years that, although I have always been immensely fond of her, I have never been a fan of her work. I am grateful and will keep it in my attic but wouldn’t dream of selling it while she is still alive. My friend now lives abroad but is the sort of person who might suddenly turn up in London with no warning and drop in without ringing first. I would hate to hurt her feelings by not having her painting in pride of place were this to happen, but it is large and overpowering and there is simply nowhere in my house where it wouldn’t jar with the existing decor. Any suggestions, Mary?

— Name and address withheld

A. Choose a commanding position where the painting could conceivably hang — if you liked it. Take a photograph of it hanging there. If the artist does drop in, show her the photo while explaining that the painting is on temporary loan to another friend who is using it to lend distinction to an otherwise unimpressive flat she has on the market.


Q. Our London street has a WhatsApp group which has been very useful, particularly when looking for reliable tradesmen. Now a new resident has taken to offering her own expertise to almost every request sent out, from catering to dog-walking to cleaning jobs. Unfortunately she has turned out to be disastrously bad at all the jobs she has gone for. We know she has fallen on hard times and we want to be helpful to her — but not at the expense of having to pay for a dud service. Mary, how can we go on using this group without offending her?

— Name and address withheld

A. You should continue to ask for recommendations on the group WhatsApp, but add ‘Please reply privately to me if you can help’. Then, when the incompetent woman offers her services, you can say that someone else has pipped her to the post.

Q. Our son has a boyfriend. The two of them are in their first year of university together. We are perfectly happy about the relationship and happy to give them all hospitality when they come to stay, but the boyfriend smokes between courses. Our son says we cannot ask him to wait till the end of dinner or ask him whether he would possibly smoke in the garden if he must smoke between courses as the boyfriend will interpret the request as being evidence of our homophobia. What do you recommend, Mary?

— Name and address withheld

A. Why not relocate some of your existing smoke alarms to just above your dining table? The boy may find smoking at the table less relaxing with a shrieking siren going off and will volunteer to go into the garden himself.

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