Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Article excerpt

Q. My work has brought me to New York for six months and I am keen to resume relations with my former brother-in-law, Edward, who lives here permanently. He and I were married to sisters in the 1970s. Edward's second wife, Tina, is friendly towards me when I ring up and has invited me and my second wife to large dinners which include their teenage son, Billy, and his friends, but I would now like to arrange lunch alone with Edward. How can I do this when he never answers the telephone, and Tina, who I suspect may be jealous of our past intimacy and would want to block such a meeting, always does?

Name and address withheld

A. Set your radio to a headachy teenage music station and have it playing loudly in the background. Ring up again. When Edward's wife answers, drawl, `Hello, is that you Billy?' She will reply, `No, it's Tina. Did you want Billy? Who is that speaking?' You need only reply, `Yeah.' There will be a sigh of irritation, then Billy's voice will come on the line, at which point you can say, `Sorry, Billy, the radio's so loud at this end I think your mother misunderstood me. It's your father I want.'

Q. May I offer an alternative solution to M.T.'s problem (26 July) of being disturbed whilst painting? After constant interruptions whilst sketching in Cairo, Alexander Cresswell, the celebrated watercolourist, borrowed the sign from his hotel room that said `Do Not Disturb' in five languages, and hung it round his neck. Despite the optimistic assumption that the local children could read, this proved very effective. …

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