Friday, 06 February 2015

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 6 February

Just who should pay when a parent takes their children’s friends out? Best decide in advance, advises Thomas Blaikie

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
An acquaintance absolutely begged me to let my 10-year-old daughter go on holiday with him and his daughter since they’re best friends. He said otherwise she’d have nobody her own age. Imagine my astonishment when they returned and the father said, ‘That will be £325, please!’
Gail Walsh, Manchester

Dear Gail,
There seems to be much bitterness in parental circles at the moment. I’m reminded of the case that’s been all over the news, where a small boy of five, or rather his parents, were invoiced £15.95 after he failed to show up at his schoolmate’s ‘slide and ride’ party on a dry ski slope in Plymouth. This was before Christmas.

Julie Lawrence, issuer of the invoice and mother of the infant who was stood up, is threatening the small claims court but is unlikely to succeed. I suspect that her frustration boiled over. It was probably a nightmare organising this outing for the tots and having to marshal their busy, distracted parents whom she didn’t know. When one of the children didn’t turn up after his parents had said he would, it was probably the last straw. So she launched her lethal invoice. But she hadn’t indicated that it was a paying event. The impression given is that the parents thought the treat was on her.

Nevertheless, if it was your child who didn’t show, you might offer to pay, might you not? I believe these parents would have done, were it not for the invoice. It’s also unfortunate they didn’t know how to contact Ms Lawrence on the day to tell her their boy wasn’t coming. Perhaps they should have done and if they had, resentment might not have brewed on such a scale.

Misunderstandings can easily arise when adults are brought together by the friendships of their off spring. But with a little effort they can be avoided. Take heed from the debacle mentioned here: make sure you know the name and contact information of the person offering hospitality to your child. If money is involved, always offer to pay your child’s share when you accept the invitation. If this causes off ence it is better than an awkward situation later when it turns out you’re expected to pay.

In your case, Gail, it’s less straightforward, because the father of your daughter’s friend appeared to be making a generous offer. But it seems, in view of what happened, that it would be wise for all of us to seek complete clarity in these particular circumstances involving young children. When the off er is made, say, ‘Very nice, but I can’t afford it,’ or ‘Should I contribute?’

It’s important to get this right because contretemps between the adults about money later on can make for nasty diffi culties between the children, too.

Please send your questions to thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT… THE COLD WEATHER

Actually, it’s what not to do. I’m irritated by people saying, ‘Isn’t it cold?’ when it isn’t cold. Often I say, ‘No, it’s five degrees, actually. And not wet.’ For cold and wet, as everyone knows, is the worst. I’m aware that we live in an age of everyone having their own opinion, but there are limits. The temperature isn’t a matter of opinion. Any notion that it’s cold when the temperature is above zero is simply fraudulent. Many these days have a smartphone that supplies on-the-spot weather reports, including temperature. Those making these reckless claims should check their facts. If they don’t have a smartphone they should refrain from comment. We can’t have the population demoralised by this manic insistence on false information. The other aspect of this is, ‘Where’s your winter coat?’ Of course a person thinks they’re cold in a hopeless little get-up. What is the point of endless weather forecasts if people take no notice? Besides, if you really want to know, it’s always too hot in winter because the central heating is constantly on.


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