Q. At a private screening of a documentary about the artist David Bomberg, a woman sitting near me in the hand-picked audience carried on using her iPhone to send and receive messages. She had the phone on silent but was generating a rival source of light to the screen we were all supposed to be watching. Thus we could not fully concentrate. Was there an elegant way I might have put a stop to this insensitive behaviour? What would you have said, Mary?
— S.H-H., London SW3
A. There is no need to say anything. Cinema usherettes of yore would curb rowdy or undesirable behaviour in the stalls by shining a torch onto the miscreants. You might replicate this practice by using the iTorch facility on your own iPhone to project onto the culprit an exposing pool of light. As those around turn to follow the focus of the beam, the culprit is faced with Bateman- cartoon style censure and you soon see an end to the nuisance.
Q. I often get the train to school and there is a chap in the year below me who thinks we are good friends. How do I politely ask him to stop trying to ingratiate himself with me? Thanks.
— G.B., London SW1
A. He must be the only boy in the country who is unaware of the concept of ‘yearism’, which dictates that no schoolboy speaks to someone in the year above him. He waits to be spoken to first. Why not assert your superiority by assuming that the boy must wish to perform fagging chores for you, since otherwise he would not dare to even talk to you? For example, say, ‘Oh great. Now you are here. Can you get me some coffee from the buffet car? And can you put this rubbish into the bin for me?’ In this way it will dawn on the boy that he would be better off avoiding you if he wants a trouble-free journey. Make sure you address him by his surname to further discourage his impertinence.
Q. Is there a way of pre-empting a request to be godparent to the child of someone one does not particularly like and who, one suspects, does not like one particularly but will make the request for reasons of career strategy? The birth is imminent.
— Name and address withheld
A. Many modern parents have forgotten that the official purpose of a godparent is to pray for their godchild, help to steer it along a Christian path and to set an example by their own godly living. Ask yourself whether you feel able to fulfil these functions. If yes, then take on this innocent child, who cannot be blamed for its pushy parent. If no, you can honestly say that you are unfit for the spiritual purpose. Blink blandly as the appellant tries to protest that he/she would not be appointing you for spiritual reasons. No one can be offended that you won’t go against your conscience.