Q. Every morning I walk to work and stop to pick up a cappuccino from a local café outside which is invariably sitting a (handsome) man, alone apart from his dog, having breakfast. We always say hello and I sense that he likes at least the look of me, but there is no opportunity to say anything else. He must live locally but I don’t know who he is, and I can’t ask the people who run the café as they don’t speak English. I can’t sit down with him at the one table outside as that would be far too obvious (and too cold). I can tell he is shy too. Please help.
— R.H., London W8
A. Arrange for a co-operative friend to go to the café ten minutes before you and be already sitting at the table outside, chatting with the handsome stranger about his dog, when you arrive. Your friend must insist that you join them and, while you are inside queuing for your cappuccino, she can furnish the stranger with a handful of key facts about you, sufficient to supply him with conversational prompts ready for your return.
Q. I have a friend who is a journalist and part-time gossip columnist. Twice recently she has written a diary story about me (luckily reading it out to me first), purporting to give me publicity for my book which is being published in June. However, in each case, I appeared in a derogatory light, so had to beg her not to publish the story. What is she up to, and how do I put a stop to it?
— E.S., London W11
A. I have access to the stories your friend wished to publish. Both were designed to excite the interest of readers and only you would have bothered to spend any time wondering whether they showed you in a derogatory light or not. If you want to sell your book in June, then remember that, like you, readers have lives to get on with and will tend to skip bland coverage in search of something with a whiff of controversy.
You should trust the judgment of your journalist friend and, so long as her diary stories do not show you committing criminal offences, give her free rein to write what she likes.
Q. I will soon leave on my first FCO overseas posting — to Central America. I have been told privately that no one wears a bra because of the local climate. Having experimented I find that, although I keep my shape, in a light dress it is all too obvious that I am unharnessed and I am not happy about this, especially as protocol will be one of my responsibilities. But I don’t want to appear stuffy or be uncomfortable. What do you advise?
— Name and address withheld
A. If royal seamstresses can add hidden engineering to the flimsiest of dresses, then surely FCO-sponsored seamstresses can do the same. It is your duty to be stuffy.