Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Article excerpt

Q. Please suggest a solution to a dilemma which must afflict many of your readers with friends in Norfolk. As Norfolk-visitors will be aware, there are a limited number of 'people' living in that county, all of them starved of social stimuli, all with overlapping friends. Consequently, there is fierce competition to have people to stay. My husband and I accepted an invitation for New Year's Eve from one of the households, only to be met with a torrent of telephone accusations from the others: `Why are you not staying with us? They've poached you! You were friends with us first!', etcetera. We do not really mind which of the six households we stay with since we are bound to see the denizens of the other five while we are up there. So next time we feel we have the energy to make the five-and-a-- half-hour trek to Norfolk, how should we best avoid ruffling feathers?

L.M., Wiltshire

A. Announce your intention to visit the county, then allow the six householders to decide among themselves which ones you should stay with. They can flip coins or pull straws to reach a verdict. By putting the ball in their court in this way, rancour will be reduced all round as fate decides which household you should stimulate.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? It may well be that all experienced parents are familiar with this old chestnut, but, as a first-time parent, I was delighted to be able to put it to use over the festive season. We were staying with friends and I had been dreading my two-year-old son having to sit up at smart tables all beautifully laid with silver and, more particularly, stiff white linen tablecloths, which I could foresee he would despoil, thus requiring the whole 20ft-long table to be changed after every 'meal'. …

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