Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Article excerpt

Q. At a party recently I was bearded by a woman who effectively pinned me against a wall while she lectured me about an aspect of my work that has just reached the public domain. No one came to rescue me for about 20 minutes. How can one get away from people in situations like this without causing offence?

A.D. , London SW1

A. Glance over the shoulder of the overbearing person as though your attention has been distracted by someone gesturing at you. Mouth 'just coming' to the imaginary person. Then say, 'What a nightmare. I am being dragged away. . .' Finish your sentence and move on, shaking your head reluctantly.

Q. I own a house in Normandy. Someone I know only slightly, having spent a weekend in his company at a mutual friend's house, has telephoned to ask if I am 'using' the house over Christmas. If not, he said, he would like to stay in it with his brother as he wants to do some walking in the area. I was so taken aback by his gall that I did not say 'no' outright, but said I would consider my plans and call him back shortly. The truth is that there is no good reason why I should not let him go there. The house is not geared up for renting out so he is not doing me out of any business. He is perfectly trustworthy and, indeed, rather nice.

However, he did not even suggest offering any remuneration for his stay. Our mutual friend says this man suffers from 'entitlement syndrome'. I will say yes, Mary, but how can I do so in such a way as to let him see it is a privilege for him to stay there, rather than an entitlement? …

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