Q. The woman who lives above me has insomnia and walks around all night. I’m also disturbed by her rather noisy cat, which seems to be constantly jumping around. Together they are keeping me awake and my work is suffering. But we are in a small house converted into two flats and I don’t wish to make an enemy of my only neighbour. How can I tactfully ask her at least to stop walking around so much in the night without infringing her freedom to roam?
— M.R.-H., London W12
A. You can’t ask her without infringing it. Instead, write in the most friendly way to apologise in advance for the terrific amount of noise which will shortly take place by builders coming in to soundproof your ceilings. Ask if she would like them to quote for soundproofing her floor at the same time, as the builders say the solution to the noise-blocking will be only partly satisfactory unless they do her floor too. Write that you hate to feel you are invading her privacy, as will be the case if you continue without it. This letter will unnerve her as she ponders on what you might have overheard already. With any luck she will be the one to pay for the soundproofing of her floor and you need not bother having your own ceilings done.
Q. Can you think of any way to solve the dilemma of correctly identifying oneself by first and second name without encouraging the other person (e.g. service provider) to use one’s first name back?
—A.C., London W8
A. Insinuate from the beginning that you are ringing on behalf of the petitioner. If the service provider insists on speaking to the customer personally say: ‘All right. I will put you through to Mrs Smith.’ You can then say ‘Hello. Mrs Smith here.’
Q. We have sent Christmas gifts to 13 great-nephews and nieces, some too young to write. To date we have received thank you letters from a parent and children representing just four of these. What do you suggest we put in an email to be sent out to our relatives at the end of this month?
— Disappointed, Instow, Devon
A. There would be no harm in your chastisement of the guilty parents since they are to blame and their slackness in not overseeing the children as they perform this essential task will impact on their success in later life. In your email you should not be coy, but straightforward in expressing your concern that 70 per cent of the presents you sent out to your junior relations may not have reached their destination. How can you know if they were ever received or went missing in the post as allegedly happens so often in the current epidemic of petty criminality? Finally, remind them of the truth universally acknowledged that ‘who thanks wins’ .