LET­TER OF THE WEEK

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - GAMES -

My hus­band and I run the lo­cal branch of a na­tion­wide or­gan­i­sa­tion

– a lunch club for re­tirees, ba­si­cally. My friend and neigh­bour – I shall call her Maisie – is also ac­tive in the club. She has been gen­er­ous with her time and other re­sources. But over the years she has made many hurt­ful com­ments to in­di­vid­u­als and cou­ples in our club, in­clud­ing us. Her long­suf­fer­ing hus­band is also be­rated and hu­mil­i­ated in pub­lic. I don’t re­ally know what lies at the heart of this, though I fear drink is an ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tor.

The new­est mem­bers tend to be the first to be picked on, so I have been tak­ing them aside and warn­ing them to be wary of Maisie. But I feel more needs to be done to curb her be­hav­iour. My hus­band and I feel re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing a happy, so­cia­ble and in­clu­sive at­mos­phere at events, and to that end I re­cently spoke to Maisie, who re­fused to coun­te­nance the no­tion that she has ever spo­ken out of turn, in­stead ac­cus­ing oth­ers of be­ing over-sen­si­tive.

I now feel she is such a loose can­non that she should not be wel­come at fu­ture events. (I hear she has re­cently been banned from a lo­cal restau­rant, for be­ing rude to their cus­tomers.) I have taken ad­vice from club head­quar­ters and they agree. But this is a harsh de­ci­sion, and a big step with ir­re­versible con­se­quences. Can you ad­vise?

JUDY AND NICK, SUF­FOLK

Dear Judy and Nick

you’ve told me about her, I guar­an­tee she won’t go qui­etly. It’ll be car­nage. So why are you con­sid­er­ing trig­ger­ing Ar­maged­don? If I’m frank, I think your mo­tives are mixed.

Let’s go through the case against her. Maisie be­lit­tles her hus­band in pub­lic. So? Lots of wives do that (and so do hus­bands) and they’re not es­corted off the premises. Granted it’s not a pleas­ant thing to wit­ness, but fun­da­men­tally it’s a mat­ter for them, not you.

You say you “hear” she’s been banned from a lo­cal restau­rant for rude­ness – not to staff, but cus­tomers. That’s an odd story. You’ve ob­vi­ously heard it sec­ond­hand. Are you sure it’s true, and not just gos­sip? Ei­ther way, it has no bear­ing on your lunch club, does it?

Now the real stone in your shoe. Maisie’s a dif­fi­cult cus­tomer and she’s been per­son­ally rude to you both. Un­der­stand­ably, that ran­kles. But you go on to say you “fear drink” may play a part. Hmm. Again, you don’t know that, do you? It’s pure sur­mise on your part and you don’t of­fer any ev­i­dence for it. Sorry, Judy (it was you who wrote this let­ter, wasn’t it?) but I’m be­gin­ning to de­tect a grudge here.

If this were a court case and I were the judge, I’d throw it out. Es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing Maisie’s likely plea of mit­i­ga­tion: she’s been a long-serv­ing, ac­tive sup­porter of the club, gen­er­ous with her time and other re­sources. If you want to give her the chop, you’re go­ing to have to come up with some pretty high-cal­i­bre rea­sons, and I don’t think you have the am­mu­ni­tion.

Look: I ac­cept Maisie is tricky, but the world’s full of tricky peo­ple and we have to rub along with them. My ad­vice next time she’s rude to you is to chal­lenge her. Don’t be con­fronta­tional, be firm. Calmly tell her she’s be­ing of­fen­sive and that you won’t ac­cept it. If she in­sults a club mem­ber, in­ter­vene; take her aside and clearly ex­plain why it’s not ap­pro­pri­ate.

Stand your ground and be pre­pared for a bit of a row. Be­lieve me, it’ll be a light skir­mish com­pared with the pitched bat­tle I hope I’ve averted.

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