We wish you a merry birthday

‘As for presents: could I check in a 22kg football table only to bring it back again?’

Standing up for being ready

‘Throughout the day of my ordeal, whenever I passed a chair, I threw myself upon it’

Snapshots take centre stage

A photograph could serve instead of a Christmas card, I thought: ‘Thinking of you and, look, here you are!’

Communication breakdown

‘It was a standard letter but it had a nasty tone, as if addressed to a notorious troublemaker’

Slot machines, cockles . . . and murder

‘I have been insulted in gondolas, even stayed with people who made a small entry in a notebook when I ate a biscuit’

Words of comfort

‘Mourners miss the comfort of reading, the access to other worlds that are not one’s own. Yet they do not want to do it’

What clothes can say about you

I spied an ivory shift dress with a collar appliquéd with the word ‘amour’

Why good-enough is better than best

‘Trying to excel is a mug’s game . . . the more you do, the more people expect, and so it goes round’

Refuse my gifts at your peril

‘I always try to make it clear a gift from me is an open-and-shut transaction. I give and you receive’

Sorry, we were wrong. Feel free to walk past a wash basin

It reminded me of someone apologising for bad hair in the seventies and bad clothes in the eighties

‘A bribe is so much more stylish than a threat’

‘Forgive me for being vulgar but would $50 help you find us seats?’ says my gallant companion

A licence for utter sloth

‘To have eight hours in which it is considered mildly heroic to stay seated is a tremendous luxury’

Blessings from the counter life

A friend who has become a gourmet marshmallow tycoon wants to crack the savoury end of the market

A lesson in birdsong

I grew up destined to be Nancy, but it has occurred to me that I am getting more like Fagin with each day

Matters of life and death

Asking ‘Was the book therapeutic to write?’ insults the art of writing (and possibly the business of living, too)

Flights of fancy dress

The outfits occupied that tiny overlap where seaside landlady and convent girl collide

Happy to be speechless

‘There are people with real problems out there, why are we creating fake hardship?’

Don’t try for me, Argentina

All my life, perhaps since the age of seven, people have told me how much I would love Buenos Aires

Noble calling of a tray-bearing aunt

The play made you feel that the life you were living now, with all its quirks, was a fine one, perhaps the best

The Henry James guide to parenting

We are so bedimmed by the glamour of teenagers that we mistakenly bow to their every whim


Susie BoytSusie Boyt writes a column on shopping for the FT Weekend supplement. She is a novelist and lives in London.

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