Q. For about four months there has been a noticeable divide between boys and girls at my school that came about through petty incidents and misunderstandings. This has left our (GCSE) year completely split between certain people and there is a sense of awkwardness. At the moment the future of the pupils’ happiness seems somewhat abysmal! I am affected by this split as I am one of the few who has not yet been affected by this divide. This leaves me in the middle of two groups of friends. I find this position demanding on my friendships with both girls and boys, especially as some of my closest friends are in conflict. Is there anything I can do to bring former friends together without being intrusive, or shall I just accept defeat and settle with one of the groups, i.e. the girls?
A.H., address withheld
A. At this time co-educated boys throughout the land feel unmanned by their chronological equals who have surged ahead both academically and in other sophistications. In later life the scales of justice will be rebalanced as the old girls ‘go off’ much sooner than the old boys. Since you are currently in favour with both sides, you can break the ice by reviving some of the popular party games of yesteryear. In Postman’s Knock, for example, one person is chosen by playing card to be the ‘postman’, and to go outside and knock on the door. Another person is chosen, by playing card, to answer it, and goes outside to pay for the ‘letter’ with a kiss, and so on. Kissing games are a tried and tested way of pouring oil on troubled waters and giving much-needed kissing practice to juveniles. Your friends can play them ‘ironically’ to save face, but they will certainly mend fences.
Q. Our host on holiday handed me an unpublished novel he had written and suggested I might enjoy some poolside reading. I was itching to get on and read Adam Zamoyski’s new book on Chopin but I ploughed gamely through it, and made carefully considered, reasonably sincere comments. Then he handed me another one. Reading his two books took up my whole week and rather marred my holiday. It was a bit like being in a mental hospital. How could I have extricated myself, Mary, without hurting his feelings?
Name and address withheld
A. Two solutions spring to mind. If you are a member of a book club you could have claimed you were duty bound to finish Chopin, Prince of the Romantics, by the end of the week. Otherwise you could quite reasonably have insisted on clearing your mental palate, so to speak, by reading a factual work between your host’s two fictional oeuvres. Thus you could have luxuriated in Chopin, at your legitimate leisure, easily until your time of departure.
Q. I sat on the Underground next to a man who was just finishing the Daily Telegraph crossword. He wanted help with 17 down and we started chatting. My wife got out at Oxford Circus while I went on to Notting Hill. Later she said the man had seemed exceptionally nice and we wondered was it rude not to exchange addresses and telephone numbers?
A.B., London W8
A. Had you been on Eurostar it would be different, but it is undignified to ask for the details of an agreeable stranger met on the tube. How poignant, though.