I have been alone in the country this festive season as my adult children and most of my friends are abroad until the second week of January. I have been perfectly happy to have avoided all the fuss about food, to have got on with some work, and to have walked my dog. My grown-up daughter was worried I would have no parties or fun, but this was mitigated by the fact that I had been asked to a local private dinner for an American writer who happens to be my literary hero. However, at a carol service on Christmas Eve I saw the well-connected woman with whom he is staying, and she didn’t mention anything about seeing me for dinner on 5 January. I’m worried that she has forgotten. She is very friendly, but also flaky. She and her husband have already been very hospitable to me, and I do reciprocate, but don’t want to seem pushy or needy. If I ring to enquire and she has forgotten, I might put her table under stress.
— E.S., Sussex
Yes but you must find out whether she is expecting you or not, because you could equally put her table under stress by not being present if she has counted you in. Ring this vague woman and say: ‘Tell me what you think I should do. Someone local invited me to an exciting dinner and I accepted, but now I think she may have forgotten she invited me. I really don’t mind if she has forgotten as I have something else enjoyable I could do instead, but if I ring to remind her then she may insist I come out of guilt but have difficulty fitting me in round the table. I wouldn’t want her to think of me as some kind of victim. What should I do?’ She is bound to reply, ‘Definitely you should just ring up and ask directly. Who is it?’ Then, safe in the knowledge that she knows you would be quite happy not to come, you can say, ‘Well, in that case, it was you.’
May I pass on a trip to readers? I’ve made a great breakthrough in communication with a dear aunt who can’t hear a thing. I sit next to her with my iPad in front of me, go to ‘Compose an email’, press the microphone button, say what I want to say, and it comes up on the screen almost at once. ‘Conversations’ can now be almost whizzed through
— H.g.c., Inverness
Thank you for your consideration in submitting this useful tip. There are many devices and pieces of software that can turn your speech into text, and they vary in quality and ease of use. For example, the Chrome Book is a laptop computer which runs Google’s own operating system, not Windows. Here is a link to a page that describes what its voice-recognition system does: Voice Recognition
You can go into PC World or a similar store to have a quick look, or watch a short YouTube video using this link: Speech Recognition