Q. Two acquaintances of mine have somehow inveigled their way into my dining circuit. They are men who, despite privilege and early promise, have made failures of their lives, but my goodness they both believe they have a story to tell. It’s not just tedious, but they bore with a ferocity that feels ideological in nature. After the last occasion I was determined to sort them out but was restrained by my friends who claimed they were basically good men. I know the dinner-party bore is nothing new but I wondered if you had any fresh ideas on how, with a degree of politeness, such people could be tempered and defused.
— Name withheld, Epsom
A. You should not try to gag these particular ‘bores’, who sound like the wrong generation or type to opt for professional counselling and hence may be unwittingly using dinner parties as opportunities for talking therapy. Take a more charitable view and listen patiently to their lengthy stories as they speak in metaphors and grope to find clarification about why they took the paths in life they did take. Your investment of time will pay off in a couple of years when they have cleared their decks, psychologically speaking, and have become better-value members of your dining circuit, which may by then be dwindling.
Q. A good friend was unable to book her Prom tickets last Saturday when the mad online scramble opened, so I offered to book for her. I booked six concerts for her and one for myself, making me eligible to apply for tickets for the Last Night. If I am fortunate enough to be offered tickets, do I have to offer them to her first or can I just take them for my husband and myself?
— B.L., by email
A. Put the ball in your friend’s court. Alert her to the potential ticket offer in an email, text or answerphone message and to your own desire to take it up should she not wish to. With time to think before replying, her conscience will, or should, tell her that, while technically the tickets are her entitlement — she having made a financial outlay six times greater than you did — morally they are your entitlement, especially since you have no intention of selling them on. But let her make the decision, so that if you are offered the tickets, you can enjoy a guilt-free evening.
Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? These days you don’t need to use your knife as a mirror to see if you have spinach on your teeth when in a smart restaurant. You can take a selfie on your iPhone.
— Y.P., London SW11
A. Thank you, but the knife is still a better option. iPhones are best kept under the table in smart restaurants.
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