Country houses for sale

Removing red wine stains

Dear Mrs Danvers, My large, short-haired dog insists on getting into bed with me, which creates problems when I go to stay in holiday cottages. Can you advise me how to cope?

It would be too much, I imagine, to make the dog keep out of your bed when you stay away. If so, the answer is to take your own sheets when you visit places. Strip off the cottage sheets, especially the bottom one, and use your own (if there’s a duvet, insert your top sheet under it). Your dog is, I hope, unlikely to mess up anything than the sheets.If the same goes for chairs and sofas in the cottage, take a large rug with you and drape it over the dog’s chair. These precautions ensure that your dog does no damage.

You would, however, be surprised at the way people leave holiday cottages (and hotel rooms, no doubt). They don’t wash up after breakfast, they stain chair covers with indelible ink, break the crockery and leave, taking the keys with them. One hotel owner I know says he’d much rather have dogs as guests, because they don’t smoke in the rooms and never kiss the chambermaids (except in the nicest possible way).

Dear Mrs Danvers, I have recently retired as the chairman of a large company and, without my personal assistants and various minions, I find it terribly difficult to keep control of my appointments and phone messages. Have you any suggestions?

Yes, what you need is extremely simple and very effective. Buy a book sized bound notebook, making sure that it will open flat and not close if you take your hand off it. Use this to record all and I do mean all your telephone conversations with the date at the top of each. Make notes as you talk of any decision, any appointment, any address, email or phone numbers. This will not only remind you of what the call was about and when you made it, it will also act as a record.

Thus, if you ring your local council and ask for a second dustbin, when nothing happens (as will probably be the case), you can ring again and tell them to speed up, quoting your previous telephone call.

In another example, I know a man who rang to say his house had been missed off the rating list (very honest). Amazingly, nothing happened in this case either. So, when he telephoned a second and third time, and finally they came back with a bill for £9,000 in total, he was able to point out their inefficiency with exact dates of his calls and so be allowed to pay in instalments.

Dear Mrs Danvers, I am unusually clumsy, especially, I confess, after a glass or two of red wine. Hence, my carpet is nastily stained with old wine to an extent that I am now thoroughly ashamed of it. I have considered moving house or buying a claret-coloured carpet, but what can i do that would be easier?

I never throw red wine on my carpet, but I have taken advice from experts and they tell me that, with recently spilt red, you should first blot it up with dry blotting paper or a J-cloth, then attack it with a good carpet shampoo. Do not use salt, white wine or soda, because these are likely to make things worse. For old stains, try putting a solution of equal parts of glycerine and water on the spots for an hour, then sponge off with water. An alternative (if your carpet is small enough) is to do nothing to the stains, but to take the carpet to a dry cleaner, explaining what the stain is. They prefer to tackle the job without any outside interference by bungling amateurs.

Dear Mrs Danvers, My parents have handed down to me a salver that they were given as a wedding present in 1929. It is of exceedingly good quality, but they never got round to engraving the family coat of arms on it as they had intended (which I think is a pity). Would it be right to do this now and how should I best go about it?

In theory, I suppose, to put a later coat of arms on a salver might be considered a bit naughty, but I hardly think you would be reducing the value of the salver, especially if the family coat of arms might have actually been put on at this date.

Many top jewellery firms would be able to organise etching a coat of arms for you, but one I would recommend is the Hatton Garden firm of Andrew R. Ullman of 36, Greville Street, EC1 (020?7405 1877; to do this for you. The price should be about £300.