Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Article excerpt

Q. My husband and I are enjoying making new friends in the small country town where we recently bought a weekend house. Unfortunately, several of these friends of whom we are fond have ghastly children who are as feral as the raccoons in our woods. Local custom seems to demand that children be welcomed at any adult gathering, and one is made to feel most inhospitable and absolutely heartless if one excludes them. Last year our Boxing Day party was a nightmare because the children ran wild, breaking glass, damaging upholstery etc. while their parents ignored them. How can we prevent this from happening again? To make matters worse, we have relatives and old friends whom we would like to invite who have charming, wellbehaved, thoroughly lovely children, children we would truly welcome. Please advise.

E.M., New York City

A. The dilemma you describe is increasingly common. Now that physical methods of disciplining children are outmoded, parents often find that appeals to reason, or to their children's better nature, fall on stony ground. It will therefore be necessary for you to hire a professional children's entertainer - in the form of an unsuccessful actor, mime artist or juggler - preferably on another floor or, ideally, within a heated outbuilding. The children can be locked in on the pretext that adults are being locked out and, with Alastair Campbell-style spinning, the whole exclusion can be passed off as a treat. Meanwhile the adults can relax.

Q. Apropos the menace of the mobile phone soliloquy, of which no nationality seems to have a monopoly (T. …

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