Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Article excerpt

Q. On a recent trip to England from the Lot, I visited my brother-in-law (of whom I am very fond) in his rolling acres, and was given a chair to sit on round the family dinner table. I was not aware that this chair was a priceless antique and, incidentally, cleverly doubled as library steps when unfolded. As I sat on the chair it crumbled into a pile of sticks. I received a severe blow to the coccyx and a splinter in my right elbow. My offer to pay for the repair was refused. However, since then there have been snide little remarks which forced me at one stage to say jokingly that I had been on the point of suing for loss of earnings and the pain caused. What is the etiquette of repairing damage to one's host's property, when one was only using it for the purpose for which it had been designed? Incidentally, I weigh some 18 stone, which must be fairly obvious to the casual observer.

Name withheld, Montcuq, France

A. The normal protocol is that, though it is excruciating, a host should never charge his guest for damages incurred to his property while he is in the process of entertaining. It may be the case, however, that your brother-in-law has learned too late that anything can be repaired these days, yet he has disposed of the splinters. Perhaps he is `projecting' his own annoyance with himself for having done this onto you. In order to discourage any further comment, it might be best for you to adopt a more shamefaced approach when the next snide remark is made. `Oh, I'm so horribly fat and disgusting,' you should say. …

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