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Honesty is the best policy, so they say.

I would say…. it depends.

I’m a very truthful person these days. As I child though, I was a terrible liar – and I mean awful. Almost in the league of Matilda, who told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes. I remember telling my classmates in about Year 3 of infant school that we had a Dalek at home; it didn’t go down well, and the more desperately I embroidered the story, the worse it was received. In the end, I realised that lying was not one of my special talents, and gave it up.

Should one always tell the truth though? I don’t think so, if it means wilfully hurting someone else’s feelings, or causing needless friction. I have a particular lack of fondness for the “Do you know what your problem is?” school of honesty: negative opinion, dressed up as a helpful piece of advice designed to allow you to understand yourself better and sort your life out. But even objectively factual observations are better kept to oneself, I think, if they’re only going to cause upset. R will tell me if I have spinach in my teeth or a splodge of toothpaste on my shirt, and I will return the favour – but I couldn’t imagine having the same conversation with a casual acquaintance at a party.

“She was the kind of person,” my mother once said, dripping venom, “who would tell you in the middle of town that your stocking seams weren’t straight.”

Thirty years of seamless stockings later, the honesty still rankled.