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Dear Prudence

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Dear Miss Perry,
Good heavens, you do seem to be in a bit of a state! But no wonder really, if your newspaper staff are so lazy. I am minded to ask, however: are they really as indolent as you suggest? I wouldn't want to insinuate anything, of course, but people can sometimes exaggerate a tiny bit when writing to me. 'All just lying there', 'staring blankly', 'so quiet, so unmoveable'? I have met my share of lazy journalists in my time, I admit [not at the present publication – Ed.], but this seems a touch hard to believe.
What you need to do is find out what motivates them deep down. It's often hard for people in authority to appreciate that their staff aren't always incentivised by the same things as they are. Maybe you could try bringing in baked goods to show you care? Baking is tremendously good for stress as well, I have found.

Yours,
Prudence.


Dear Ms. Belmonde,
I confess to a certain confusion regarding your letter. I do try to deal with as wide a remit of problems as possible, but your query as to whether you can eat your sister's cupcake seems a trifle basic. Have you asked your sister? If she doesn't want to share the cupcake, I fear it would be exceedingly rude of you to do so. This is basic manners, applying to cupcakes, creampuffs, poptarts and all manner of other baked goods equally. On the subject of which, I wrote a letter recently to a young lady with a very similar address (see Monday's edition) who I advised to take up baking – perhaps you could talk to her?

Remember your vegetables as well!
Prudence.

PS. Your appended suggestion that you could wait until Carmilla's finished eating the cupcake to eat her myself betrays a certain confusion of mind. One cannot have a cake and eat it, you know!

PPS. Typically we refer to cupcakes as it, not she. But I guess from your surname that this is not your first language, so please take this as a handy hint on non-gendered nouns in English grammar and not a criticism! Adieu!


Dear Miss Hollis,
I am delighted to see that you took my hint in last week's paper about my interest in more pet-based problems. And how nice to hear from an aspiring journalist!
Your kitten does seem to have some problems, judging from your description. I'm sure you know that sleeping all day is very much normal for felines, but if she's shedding fur all over the house it could be a sign of ringworm. Get her to a vet at once. As to the spots of blood she leaves elsewhere, I would suspect she's now old enough to be bringing in kills of her own. If she hasn't left them for you somewhere obvious, try looking behind the bookcases.

Best of luck,
Prudence


Dear Mr. Armitage,
Mid-life crisis: am I right? You didn't give your age, but I do detect a man of more advanced years from your language. Don't be alarmed: it's not unusual to look in the mirror and be shocked how different your face is from the image you've been carrying around in your head so many years. It's a natural part of growing older. People deal with it in different ways. Some go running after a younger partner (not that I'm suggesting, mind, just mentioning!), others embark on faddy liquid diets or the like in an effort to stay youthful. Not a good idea in my view. My advice: get plenty of exercise and if you're worried about wrinkles, try not to get in direct sunlight without a good layer of suncream.

Chin up!
Prudence.


Dear Countess Karnstein,
Running away from your problems solves nothing. Not even if your chosen method of running away involved taking Laura around the cities of Europe and – to use your superb if somewhat ripe phrase – fucking her six different ways before breakfast.
Talk to your girlfriend. Talk to your sister. Call your mother. And play with this new brother you've acquired before he hits the Terrible Twos.

Hugs,
Prudence

PS. What were the six different ways you were proposing, incidentally? Asking for a friend.


Dear S. LaFontaine,
It's always nice to make new friends, but when those feelings become something more it's so awkward, isn't it? I do sympathise. Best to broach the subject gently, so he has time to get it into his head. We're not all as plugged into our emotions as we could be.
I think you must be a very kind young person to devote such time and energy to befriending this shut-in: he's a lucky man to have you around. If only we could all find somebody so willing to put us back together.

For Science!
Prudence


Dear Mr Kirsch,
Spit. It. Out. No good will come of bottled-up feelings, you know.

Bro-Fist!
Prudence


Dear Miss Lawrence,
That does sound upsetting. Some men just don't know when a girl's not interested, do they? If you don't want to hurt his feelings you could remain silent and hope he goes away, but if he does speak it's better to break his heart sooner than later. Let's just hope nobody's advising him to make a move any time soon!

Respect,
Prudence


Dear Baron Vordenberg,
Forgive me if I'm being entirely stupid, but did your letter actually contain a question? I couldn't find one amid the tales of adventure on the high seas and treasure hunting in the Amazon. But they were dashed good tales, if you'll pardon my saying so. Did you really become blood brothers with the Yeti? And how did the revolution amongst the penguin folk of the Antarctic go?
I don't know what advice I can offer in the circumstances, but I have often found that most people who write to me are just in need of calming down and taking stock. Perhaps you need to get away from it all for a while. Might I suggest a fishing trip?

Yours,
Prudence


Dear Miss Perry,
Ah, I wondered as much. You say you don't quite feel yourself – and I note there are no further comments about your newspaper staff. Do I detect that I was quite right and that your source of stress is internal rather than external? If so I am certainly glad you can admit it and not take it out on your employees.
You've probably been overdoing it. Losing your memory, saying things out of character, fantasies of power and revenge – all of these can be signs of overwork, of trying to handle it all on your own. What you need is a companion, someone to keep you company and to provide an outlet for your energy. I find highly-strung ladies such as yourself work best with confident but laid-back partners: maybe it's time to make an OKCupid profile and see what happens!

Go get 'em, girl!
Prudence

PS. If this stray cat you mention comes round regularly, why not invite it into the kitchen for a while? I know it may look savage, but the most ferocious felines are often the softest pussycats when you get to know them. Just make sure not to splash her with water and you'll be fast friends.

PPS. If you should get a date, I'd maybe wipe off the Latin writing on your stomach. I mean, I'm all for you do you, but there is such a thing as terrifyingly creepy as well and you don't want to be making awkward explanations when you should be bringing the mood to simmering point.


Dear Ms. Belmonde,
I'm glad to see you're baking your own cupcakes now instead of stealing from your sister. And I quite agree - Betty Crocker is good fun. A lot of people look down on packet mixes, but I've had great results from Betty Crocker's fudge brownie mix and the fun is the important thing.
Concerning your question about your new friend, it's not unusual to for those who have recently lost their parents to be suddenly reminded of them by things people say and do. I often see my father's eyes when I meet Mr. Brimshaw down the road (many others have said the same, for my father was a very popular postman - especially with the ladies of the town). And I believe that those who we loved and lost are never truly gone. Maybe a spark of your mother watches you right now, even while you're baking with your friend.

Affectionately,
Prudence


Dear Miss Hollis,
I am pleased you are getting on so well with your kitten. And you're quite right to interpret the marks on your neck as signs of affection, the lovely little thing was just trying to snuggle you. Very sensible to make sure it spends enough time in bed, kittens need their rest like all of us.
You do say that you're still worried about its 'secretive moods'. I take it you've not found the stash of dead mice, then. Now, this is going to be some tough advice. You kitten needs discipline if it's going to grow out of its sulks. Get a good collar and start training it immediately – you need to establish who's top. Kittens are not as easy to train as puppies, but with insistence and tough love you'll have the pussy begging in no time.

Crack the whip!
Prudence


Dear Ms. Morgan,
I read your letter with a heavy heart. My dear Ms. Morgan, I don't know what kind of reply you were expecting from me, but I must be frank. This is unhealthy, immoral and probably dangerous. A woman in your position should be ashamed of yourself. It is not acceptable to force entry into a student's accommodation and squat there without permission. It is not acceptable to sabotage a university's official governing body – even a university you used to control yourself. It is not acceptable to keep dangerous animals on campus and then try to kill them when the press coverage turns sour. Not to mention that your relationship with your daughters is clearly one marked by obsessive control instincts that have left them damaged and drained.
It is time to turn over a new leaf, and you can start by leaving that poor girl you've imposed yourself on in peace and letting her kiss her baking companion undisturbed! Ms. Morgan, I implore you to take a good hard look at yourself and what you have become. Was this what you wanted – when you were a girl, with a girl's heart?

Disapprovingly,
Prudence

PS. You know, you have remarkably similar handwriting to another of my correspondents. Funny how these things happen, isn't it?


Dear Countess Karnstein,
I am glad you've sorted things out with your mother. And it's good to hear you've given up on the running-away plan in favour of – to quote another fine if indelicate phrase of yours – going down on her like the Titanic. See how many problems can be solved by good communication? It's not as if we're all locked in coffins underground unable to talk to each other, after all!

Cuddles,
Prudence

PS. I understand the Titanic went down very slowly over the course of several hours. I fear we're in an area outside my field of expertise – could you explain in more detail, please?


Dear LaFontaine,
Thank you for your letter, it was so supportive. Yes, I've been going through some difficult times lately. It's just- I've been asking myself whether it's really enough, being an agony aunt. I mean, if I solve problems people never write back. And if I screw up, people never write back either. It's so hard to know whether I'm making any real difference in their lives. I don't even know the people I write to! They could be anyone. Sometimes I amuse myself by imagining that all the people I write to know each other – how screwed-up would that be?
You're right, of course. If I had somebody to share it with, somebody to give me a human story, not just one on the page. Alas, I'm getting on in years now and such are not easily found.
I'm glad things worked out with your friend. I hope the age difference isn't causing too many problems?

Your friend,
Pru


Dear Mr Kirsch,
No. No. Absolutely not. It lasted like three days and five people died, you do not want a Romeo and Juliet experience.

Benedick and Beatrice maybe more your thing?
Prudence


Dear Miss Lawrence,
You tell him, girl! 'Over my dead body' – that's the stuff.

Have one Hell of a Summer!
Prudence


My Dear Vordie,
It does sound an exceptionally exciting fishing trip! Do they really have anglerfish that large in Austria? I never knew. And thank you for the photographs, the landscape is most beautiful. You cut a very dashing figure, standing on the mountain peak with the wind ruffling your hair. Very nice breeches too. Yes.
Now, I wanted to ask more about the trip to the Andes. You ended last time with you trapped on a mountain spur with only a rubber band and a cactus to fight off the horde of toucans. What happened next? Did you ever find El Dorado?
And, um, I don't know if this is quite professional, but I'm usually in the Ishtar Wine Bar on Friday nights, if you fancy...

See you soon?
Prudence


Dear Miss Perry,
You know, you're the second young lady I've advised recently whose cat has made a mess of her neck. But like her you don't seem too unhappy about it so that's good, if somewhat mystifying to me. And I'm delighted to hear you've been feeling more yourself lately (accepting responsibility for your problems with the newspaper staff is part of that I'm sure) – 'lost that glint in your eye' as your young lady puts it.

Give my love to your new girlfriend.
Prudence


Dear Ms. Belmonde,
I'm sure your necklace can be replaced. It's not worth having a falling out with your student rep over a piece of jewellery. I know it had sentimental value but we can't cling on to every little piece of our hearts, no matter how broken up they were. Tell you what: go out with your little Lola and buy each other something sparkly in secret. Boom! Instant meaningful accessories.

Get her something nice,
Prudence


Dear Miss Hollis,
That was a lot of superlatives for one letter. I'm not sure I understood all the sentences, but the intent is very much appreciated. What were you strapping on her? Whatever it was, I'm sure it was very cute.
If your cat is still being secretive about something, then you'll just have to keep an eye on her. Find out what she's hiding under the floorboards. What's the worse it can be? Probably a giant fish or something.

Yours determinedly, Prudence

PS. Get a webcam or something to watch kitty.


Dear Lophi,
I was deeply saddened to receive your letter. The saddest thing is, it is not an uncommon story. You've had a long and proud life making your mark, but as you get older you feel trapped. The light has gone out, as it were.
But don't give up! You have so much to be happy and grateful for! There are hordes of friends and admirers who flock to see you. You are a significant figure for the whole university and while your present life might seem difficult, you have by your own account lived through many worse things (your descriptions of what I take to be the Second World War were... apocalyptically graphic. Have you considered writing professionally?).

Yours encouragingly,
Prudence


Dear Countess Karnstein,
You're nervous? It's quite understandable. I think you're making the right choice, you know, but I suppose there's nothing I can say to make actually going through with it less nerve-wracking. In situations such as these, a stiff brandy is the best I can offer you.
Keep your little surprise well-hidden – under the floorboards is always a good place. Especially if she's bought a webcam, you can never tell when those things have been left on.

Good luck!
Prudence

PS. You have a gift for vivid imagery, Countess, but I wasn't quite clear on the description in the second paragraph of your letter. Where does one put one's legs in such a position? Please write back and explain, with diagrams.


Dear LaF,
So soon? Well, you're the best judge of that after all – and best of luck to you with it. Incidentally, I hope you're not going to turn into one of those people who starts sending me letters about their necks being marked. It keeps happening and I'm starting to think there might be some subtext. Is it youth slang, do you know?
I must say you've managed everything admirably with hardly a word from me. I know you'll tell me I'm maudlin, but in this difficult art I fear my pupils have all outstripped me.
But there's always Friday. Fingers crossed!

Pru


Dear Mr Kirsch,
To my knowledge, all continents in the world have species of deer save Australia and Antarctica. Dogs are found more or less everywhere, but probably not much in Antarctica and even then only pulling sleds. As to the remainder of your questions, I enclose several booklets from local travel agents who should be able to facilitate your rapid emigration on personal reasons.

Say hello to the penguins,
Prudence


Dear Miss Lawrence,
A new life? A new beginning! Breathe deep, sit tall and have a drink, you've earned it!

Ma Usella Mituti Ikkalu Baltuti,
Prudence


Dear My Dearest Vordie Cornelius
I would like to
Could I
If I
Yours (if you want),
Prudence


Dear Mrs and Mrs Permonde,
Congratulations! Lovely choice of rings, by the way.

Love, Pru


Dear Countess and Mrs Hollstein,
Congratulations! I always knew this day would come.

Love, Pru


Dear Mr and Mx LaFlashDrive,
Congratulations! Love the surname, very techno-wizz.

Love, Pru


My Dear Cornelius Hans Albrecht Lugenbaron von Vordenberg,
When it comes to us, I shan't surrender a single syllable of that beautiful and beloved name. Yes I say, yes I will, yes!

Yours (forever), Prudence