Ask Mary Mary Kenny

mary kenny

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

Q My hus­band and I have re­cently re­tired and we’re hop­ing to do some of the trav­el­ling abroad we’d al­ways hoped to do in our re­tire­ment. How­ever, I have an el­der sis­ter who suf­fers from health prob­lems and some dis­abil­i­ties, and I feel rather guilty go­ing abroad and leav­ing her. For a va­ri­ety of rea­sons her di­rect fam­ily can’t al­ways be on hand and she has had some mis­for­tunes in her life. She had a cataract op re­cently and needed some sup­port. She de­pends on us to take her to hospi­tal ap­point­ments (fre­quent) and shop­ping, as she can­not go alone. Also for so­cial out­ings. What’s the best course, do you think? Name and ad­dress supplied A Your kind­ness and ser­vice to­wards your sis­ter are ab­so­lutely won­der­ful. Per­haps this is what the Prime Min­is­ter means by ‘the shared so­ci­ety’, in which peo­ple take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their fam­ily and friends. How­ever, you re­ally are en­ti­tled to a life of your own as well, and you are more than en­ti­tled to go trav­el­ling with your hus­band, ful­fill­ing a life­long am­bi­tion. Of course you might en­sure that your sis­ter has ac­cess to what­ever care pack­ages are avail­able lo­cally – the GP can usu­ally di­rect pa­tients to­wards so­cial ser­vices, where pos­si­ble (though we’re all aware there is a cri­sis in care pro­vi­sion). There are often vol­un­tary ser­vices that can help out – Age Con­cern should be able to sug­gest some op­tions here. I had ex­pe­ri­ence of a won­der­ful vol­un­tary help­ing agency through that route. I know it’s emo­tion­ally dif­fi­cult be­cause your sis­ter clearly wants you to be there for her, but if you don’t take the chance to do this trav­el­ling, you’ll come to re­sent it – and per­haps her – later. Ex­plain that you will be back, and send her a se­ries of cards on your trav­els; post­cards are old-fash­ioned but it’s some­thing that a per­son can show and dis­play – ev­i­dence of so­cial links. And fi­nally, try to rope in what­ever other fam­ily mem­bers you can. When you’ve done your best, en­joy your trips and don’t feel guilty. Q As a reg­u­lar Lon­don Un­der­ground user, I usu­ally avoid giv­ing money to buskers since I find them an­noy­ing and close to be­ing beg­gars. Now my daugh­ter has in­formed me that there are 35 of­fi­cial busk­ing pitches on the Un­der­ground and there are au­di­tions to fill the spots. Per­haps the next David Bowie is among them. Should I change my tune and be gen­er­ous? A S, Wandsworth A I give a coin to buskers if I like what they’re play­ing: this is a mea­sure of mar­ket re­sponse, for the en­ter­tainer should learn to please his pub­lic. So give if you like the mu­sic, but don’t feel you have to if you don’t. To beg­gars I some­times of­fer a ba­nana or a bar of choco­late, rather than cash: they can be sur­pris­ingly grace­ful about ac­cept­ing such do­na­tions. Q I have a very good friend who lives in Wash­ing­ton DC. For the past four­teen years I have vis­ited her and her hus­band, stay­ing in their beau­ti­ful home and tak­ing in the won­der­ful sights of the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. They are life­long Democrats. At Christ­mas they sent me a card ask­ing me not to plan a trip this year ‘as our world has turned up­side down’. I am writ­ing this a week be­fore the inau­gu­ra­tion. The man get­ting ready to in­herit Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s and Abra­ham Lin­coln’s old job is rev­el­ling in di­vi­sion and at­tack­ing sec­tions of the me­dia. How should I re­spond to my friend? She and her hus­band are ob­vi­ously up­set, but I do not want to lose my dear friends by ne­glect (we are in our sev­en­ties). I’ve an urge to fly out in the spring and surprise them (per­haps book­ing into a ho­tel). Would this be wise or just lead to em­bar­rass­ment? Nancy, Lon­don SE5 A Ac­quire an air­line ticket as soon as pos­si­ble to see your Wash­ing­ton friends! First, those of us who are sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­ans should take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to visit friends for as long as we can. Se­condly, and more al­tru­is­ti­cally, you ob­vi­ously must do what­ever pos­si­ble to cheer up these de­spair­ing Amer­i­can Democrats: a prob­lem shared is a prob­lem halved. And thirdly, the more ghastly a po­lit­i­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion seems, the more fas­ci­nat­ing it can be to watch it up close, as ev­ery jour­nal­ist knows. So don’t hes­i­tate – just go. (It’s a tact­ful op­tion to book into a ho­tel, but once your friends know you’re State­side, they may well ex­tend a house in­vi­ta­tion.) You prob­a­bly know that Nor­we­gian – a very pleas­ing bud­get air­line (this is not a prod­uct place­ment) – now does ter­rific low-price fares to the east coast of the US. And it has such pretty pic­tures of fa­mous Scan­di­na­vians on the tail fins of its planes – Hans Chris­tian Andersen, Jenny Lind, Hen­rik Ib­sen etc.

Mary wel­comes com­ments, prob­lems, dilem­mas and gen­eral com­plaints about love, life, man­ners, morals and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. Write c/o The Oldie, Mo­ray House, 23/31 Great Titch­field Street, Lon­don W1W 7PA, or email her at marykenny@the­ Her web­site is

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