Q. I have had the misfortune to have broken my foot and was packed off by my GP to a clinic in Vincent Square for an X-ray. The male receptionist kindly arranged a taxi and gave me £2 when I told him I might be just short of the fare. I assured him that I would pop in to reimburse him as soon as I was able but he insisted that it was his pleasure and proceeded to make me a very nice cup of tea. This very good man would obviously be offended if I tried to pay him back the £2 as he refused to countenance my offer twice. Can you think of anything other than a Christmas card which I can give him to express my gratitude for his kindness?
— J.P., London SW1
A. Much better to send a thanking postcard, not in an envelope, to the clinic in Vincent Square. Address it ‘To the kind man with black hair’ or whatever he had. As the postcard is circulated through the clinic in search of the correct recipient, your benefactor’s good nature will be publicised. This will be more enjoyable for him than the return of the £2.
Q. I recently met a writer who told me she would send me a copy of her latest book. I dread having to read it as I suspect I will not like it and I know this woman is the sort of person who will take it badly if I do not respond quickly with a rave review. I am not in the market for demolishing someone’s confidence. What do you recommend?
— Name and address withheld
A. As soon as the book comes through the letterbox, sit down that moment to write a very enthusiastic email saying how thrilled and grateful you are to receive it. Say you love the cover and have dipped inside and love the feel and the whole idea. Conclude with: ‘I shall now start at the beginning.’ In this way the writer will associate your response to her book with positive feelings and may not even notice that you do not write a follow-up to express your approval of the contents.
Q. The only time I can find to ring my family is when my boyfriend and I are in transit between work and home, or on the way from one social engagement to another. My interlocutor invariably asks where I am and I usually say I’m on the bus. However, I was caught out recently when my brother heard me say to the taxi driver: ‘It’s just here on the right, please.’ How can I contact my family on the hop without incurring disapproval for my spendthrift ways?
— V.H., Fulham
A. London buses now feature recorded route announcements. Ask your boyfriend to record one on his mobile then, when you are next telephoning your family from a black cab, let him set the announcement going to convince your family of your new economy drive.