Ask Virginia Ironside
QMy sister and I are organising a memorial for my father, who was 99 when he died, and we are having it in his garden. My sister is saying a few words and we are planting a rose in his memory. He had hundreds of friends – so I’m suggesting that, after my sister has spoken, we ask anyone who likes to give their own personal tribute. But my sister is very much against it. She says my father, who used to be in the Royal Marines, would not have liked it. But I say that the little ceremony is not for him, but his relatives and friends. What do you think? J D, Hertfordshire
AMost of his friends, or at least his oldest and perhaps best ones, will be of the same generation as your father. Unless you have hundreds of chairs in the garden, they’ll be in howling, arthritic agony if they have to stand for too long, dreading yet another person leaping up to have their two pennies’ worth. The more people who speak, the more obliged more people will feel to have their say. And secondly, you are opening the door to the longest, most boring windbags, some of who are, rather like the preacher at the recent royal wedding, almost powered by the sound of their voices and refuse to stop. It is well-nigh impossible to tell them, very politely, thank you but enough is enough.
Also, as they’ll share the same values as your father, they’ll want the ceremony to be properly organised. If I were you, I’d announce, before you start, that tea will be served at a certain time – that way, people know where they are and can share their memories over a cuppa and preferably from a chair. Keep the ceremony under control. All your father’s friends will be immensely grateful.
Are we all ‘guys’ now?
QI was so pleased the BBC’S Jane Garvey has already objected, but I do hate it when a waiter comes up to my table with the words: ‘Hey, guys! How are you today?’ I feel like saying, ‘Excuse me, I’m not a guy’, but my son tells me I’m being ridiculous and everyone says this these days. Audrey B, Weybridge
AIt’s the accepted plural of both sexes in the US but certainly not in the UK, and particularly not among older people. Perhaps no one wants to say, ‘Hi, guys and gals’ because it reminds them of the ghastly Jimmy Savile. But how can ‘guys’ be OK in the plural and not the singular? I’m sure your son would be astonished if someone referred to you, his mother, as ‘a really good guy’. But then I’m picky. I hate it when someone comes up to a group of women and says: ‘Hi, ladeez!’ What on earth is wrong with a simple ‘Hello’?
QI’ve been told I have to retake my driving test now I’m 70. I am dreading it. I’m extremely careful driving around locally and have never had an accident, but I would hate to be tested on a motorway. Valerie Archer, by email
AHaving spent about an hour trying to get through to the DVLA, I’ve finally talked to a real person. You don’t have to take a test, so don’t worry. But it is completely your responsibility to apply for a renewal after you’ve reached 70. Apparently they’ll send you what’s known as a ‘courtesy reminder’ – I have to say I never got one – but the onus is basically on you. You then have to renew every three years – again, it’s all up to you to remember, not up to the DVLA to remind you. You’ll be asked various questions about your state of health and your eyesight – make sure you have recently been tested, as this can be a hidden problem with elderly people.
If you have a photo ID driving licence, you can see when the renewal time is due. It’s in tiny print on the back – so have a magnifying glass or a young person to hand.
It might be worth booking a course, anyway, at the Institute of Advanced Motoring, as suggested by a reader, Jeremy Macafee, to make you extra confident, just in case motorway driving were to become a necessity – in the case of someone becoming ill for example and your having to rush them to hospital. All too likely at our age, unfortunately.
QYou had a letter from someone who didn’t cry at his father’s death (July issue). Nor did I when my father died. But I sometimes feel ashamed that I felt worse when I was sent to boarding school when I was eight! G P Toronto
ATotally understandable. For you, in your mind, your parents might as well have died when they sent you away so cruelly. No wonder you didn’t shed a tear later.