Q. For years I have suffered embarrassment at the hands of my father’s gluttony – specifically his habit of ordering an entire pint of ice cream when we go out, enough to satisfy an entire family, and devouring it at the gelato shop in front of judgmental eyes obviously disgusted by the display. Since his gall bladder was removed a while back, this is not only greedy but also dangerous, as he is incapable of processing large quantities of fat. Do you have any suggestions to curtail these frozen-dessert binges?
C.E., Vancouver, Canada
A. It would seem that there is nothing you can do to curb these excesses, so why not turn the situation to your advantage and encourage onlookers to enjoy the display rather than despise it? ‘Isn’t it marvellous to see someone cocking a snook at the health police like this?’ you can ask them. ‘You have to admire the cavalier attitude when he’s been told it’s dangerous for someone without a gall bladder! What a man!’ In this way you may procure a surfeit of the attention he is clearly seeking – indeed, enough to act as something of a ‘sickener’ that will act as a natural appetite suppressant.
Q. I am 33 years old. My problem is that, although I sleep very well, for the first part of each day my face looks terribly old and haggard as though I have slept badly. I find myself at a loss as to what to say when I run into friends and acquaintances in the early morning who, apparently shocked by my appearance, ask, ‘Gosh, are you all right?’ What is the dignified answer to such an inquiry?
E.H., London SW10
A. Many women do not realise that the sort of facial quilting you describe comes from incorrect sleeping habits. Those who fall into slumber with their faces pushed into a pillow and ‘clenched’ in the manner of someone waiting at a bus stop will suffer repercussions on the following day. The resultant creasing may not smooth out until mid-afternoon. Take a tip from some of our best-preserved septuagenarian beauties and train yourself to sleep on your back. You will soon see an end to these nuisance inquiries.
Q. A friend has self-published a novel after having had his manuscript rejected by numerous publishers. Needless to say, it is embarrassingly bad and almost unreadable. He is pestering me to tell him what I think of it. What can I say?
N.S., St Marc Jaumegarde, France
A. Pass the ambiguous verdict that ‘Naturally I found it absolutely fascinating to see what sort of thing would come out of the imagination of someone I know so well.’ Swiftly move on to add that, just as it is impossible to judge whether one’s own children are attractive or well behaved, you are too close to him to be able to say how it would go down with the general public. Suggest he takes it on a writing course, such as one organised by the Arvon Foundation, where dispassionate professionals will be on hand to put him in the picture.
Q. I have been invited to appear on Question Time. I am loath to make the journey to somewhere like Sheffield or Middlesbrough and to have to join someone like Ann Widdecombe or Jo Brand for dinner unless I am handsomely rewarded. Unfortunately the person who approached me did not mention money and I did not like to ask what sort of fee I could expect. Mary, do you have any inside knowledge?
Name and address withheld
A. The fee payable is £100 ‘disturbance allowance’, plus the cost of first-class travel to the provincial venue and a taxi to take you home.