Q. Is there a tactful way to deter certain people from buying clothing for one’s tiny children as Christmas presents? I am not ungrateful, but over the last two years the very expensive clothes have been only worn twice — on the two occasions when the gifter came to visit. It seems so wasteful but I hesitate to suggest that I do not share her taste in clothing and she should save her money.
— Name and address withheld
A. No, you must not do that. Instead carefully insert the children into the clothing, leaving the labels intact. Take an old-fashioned snap (i.e. not digital) and post this as part of a thank-you letter to the kind donor. You need make no further gesture. Then take the clothing back to the expensive shop for a refund.
Q. The other day, while I was standing in Kensington High Street waiting for a 27 bus, a man I know well walked straight past me looking purposefully away. I was upset to be snubbed and my conscience played all sorts of tricks with me as I wondered what I might have done to offend him. Fortunately I was still waiting for the bus ten minutes later and happily surprised to hear the man call my name and greet me warmly. I admitted I had seen him a few minutes before and had wondered if and why he was cutting me dead. He grinned broadly and apologised and told me he was on his way to a bookies and stood to lose large sums if he missed the race. My message to readers is don’t take snubbings personally. Sometimes the snubber has a hidden agenda.
— C.B., London W8
A. Thank you for giving this tip. A snubbing usually says more about the snubber than the snubbee, but a snubber often has a hidden agenda. Readers should not forget that a snubber may also not be wearing his or her glasses.
Q. My father, who has given up driving, has a parking space outside his house in central London. I’ve discovered that a young neighbour of his is now using this space but offering in exchange only to give him a crate of wine at Christmas. The girl has a space outside her own house but two cars instead of one. My father now realises he had been silly to have accepted the arrangement. How can we tactfully renegotiate the terms for next year?
— Name and address withheld
A. Why not look at the deals offered by www.justpark.com, which allows householders to rent out their drive or forecourt for a fee that suits them. The company then charges 25 per cent on top. It should not be too difficult to get an offer in writing from justpark.com, and your father can show it to the girl when he next sees her, asking innocently whether she has received such an offer herself and has considered getting rid of her cars to take advantage? She will soon offer a more handsome reward to him for future years.