Q. I am no interior decorator, but we have a couple of rather subtle paint colours in the house that I picked out of a Dulux colour sheet and they have both been a success. I would be grateful if you could suggest a slight put-down to those visitors who ask which Farrow and Ball paint I have used.
— Name and address withheld
A. A put-down would be inappropriate in the current climate. You clearly do not realise that, all over Notting Hill, billionaire women are triumphantly shrieking ‘Zara!’ and ‘Top Shop!’ when asked where their winter coats are from. Inconspicuous consumption is the new black and boasting about cost-cutting the new oneupmanship.
Q. A small matter, but one I would like your advice on. When you have mid-row seats in the theatre, and people are half-standing to let you through, should you face them or turn your back? The former can seem a bit intimate, the latter can seem rude as they are getting your backside thrust at them.
— H.A., Sandford-on-Thames
A. It is incorrect to face your fellow audience members as you pass. The brief mimicry of mating is highly intrusive, but worse is the potential for germ-breathing. You can sweeten the insult of presenting your back by drawing attention to yourself and apologising from the aisle before progressing along the row.
Q. I was worried sick one day while reading the lesson in church, suddenly realising that I had left my phone on in my bag in the pew. All was well and no one did ring or text me, thank God. When telling the priest on the way out, he suggested changing my ringtone to some kind of organ music as one of his former parishioners had done, and then the congregation would think it was all part of the service!
— A.S., by email
A. Thank you for sharing this tip, although a prepared ringtone of coughing would be more plausible in this scenario.
Q. In the departure lounge of an airport the other day, I saw two famous people, both of whom I know socially, but only slightly. I would have gone across to say hello, but since they are famous I did not want to seem pushy. Luckily they did not see me. What should I have done? — Name and address withheld
A. The famous would much rather that people who know them say hello. If you do not, and they suddenly notice you, they will wonder why you didn’t announce yourself. Unfortunately they may suspect that you did not do so because you felt guilty. Perhaps you had photographed them and uploaded it somewhere, or worse, emailed it to a gossip column. Next time, just wave in a friendly manner, and speak a platitude before moving on.