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A friendly word

"Start as you mean to go on" is a proverb (if it is a proverb) few of us subscribe to although all of us at some time or another wish to goodness we had. In the matter of bad habits, for instance, we should be quick to tell our loved ones that they are irritating, and not allow the sniffs or hums or little verval quirks to build up over the years into a mountain or annoyance, so that suddenly , out of a blue sky, and after decades of admirably throttled exasperation, we unleash a thunderbolt of pent-up rage upon their unsuspecting heads.

There was once a wife who went home to her mother because every evening for fifteen years her excellent husband, upon returning from work had, as he came through the door, cried "Cooee! Smee!" This got on her nerves to such an extent she had entirely gone to pieces and was looking forward to a divorce.

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Friends are the people who should be prompt to advise us of our deficiencies, they are the ones who not only should tell us we are putting on far too much eye-shadow but that we are silly to start our married lives doing our husband's packing, because then we shall always be expected to do it. Friends should be the first to tell us that if we go on whistling through our teeth like that the children will leave home.

Speed is the essence of the rescue operation. My father gave my aunt a box of marrons glaces every Christmas for 40 years and it was only on the 41st year he discovered she did not like them. She should have told him right away, or at any rate after the second lot, but she was too polite, and after a few years it became, of course, impossible.

I myself have just discovered that the beautiful monogrammed pigskin engagement book I give a friend every year is too large to go into his vest pocket, and that anyway he has always, ever since ever, been given one by an even better friend. Somebody should have toldm me.

It seems that good manners make for a lot of minor irritations, and yet it is difficult to imagine oneself going through life constantly telling people their presents are unacceptable or their habits aggravating. It should be done; indeed it is kind to do it: but I think it is one of those things that should be done by someone else. And preferably to someone else.


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