Q. Travelling on a train recently I happened to notice two former acquaintances, sitting together and very nearly opposite me, neither of whom have I spoken to for several years. The two are unknown to one another. This unfortunate coincidence left me in a difficult situation, as one is a most agreeable and attractive young lady whom ordinarily I would gladly have engaged in conversation in the hope of renewing our acquaintance, while the other is a former barman who could easily have launched into an anecdote about my rumbustious behaviour in my student days. Fearing that such an intervention might result if I spoke, I remained silent throughout the journey. My decision was made all the more painful by the fact that the young lady was obviously bored by the novel she was reading and would probably have relished some conversation. What could I have done?
—J.F.,Woodford Green, Essex
A. A trip to the buffet car would have resolved your problem. There is no doubt that the attendant would have appreciated the novelty of being asked to intervene in an onboard human interest drama. It would have made a welcome change from slapping down snacks on the counter and moving on to the next impatient customer. A carefully worded announcement would have brought the woman to the buffet car where you could have enjoyed your reunion without fear of sabotage by a rival spectre from your past.
Q. I enjoyed your response to the reader who was wary of passes being made at her on the Caledonian Sleeper. As a recent traveller from Euston to Glasgow I can confirm that access to the top bunk is indeed difficult — to its intended occupant, let alone to an interloper. I would also like to pass on two tips to readers. There are no charging points for mobile telephones or laptops in the second-class cabins but you can plug a two-pronged euro adapter into the shaving socket and successfully charge that way. Also, the food in the dining car is much improved: haggis, neeps and the like, wine list not at all bad and all surprisingly affordable.
—N.L.C., London W11
A. How kind of you to share this tip. I would add that you need to establish your presence in the dining car at your earliest opportunity, since the demand for this improved facility far exceeds the seating capacity.
Q. How should I avoid damaging a ceramic umbrella stand by the renowned potter William Plumptre when I drop my umbrella in?
A. Cut some old carpet into a circle to fit the bottom of this ceramic stand. This will absorb the shock of the umbrella’s arrival.