Q. What can be done when more people than you can cater for accept an invitation? We are giving a two-hour 21st-birthday drinks party for our daughter. Our Chelsea cottage will hold a maximum of 70 but, adhering to the immutable law of party-giving, which is that a third of those you invite will be unable to come, I advised my daughter to send out a hundred invitations in the expectation that only 70 would accept. Calamity! For the first time ever the formula has failed and all one hundred have accepted. For various reasons we can’t change the venue and we have no garden to expand into. Is it ever acceptable to uninvite people and, if so, how?
— A.P., London SW3
A. No, it is never acceptable to uninvite. Instead you can take a tip from the late Colonel Townend of the oversubscribed Hill House prep school. The Colonel managed overcrowding by timetabling for a percentage of the pupils to be always out and about playing cricket, football or visiting museums, leaving plenty of space inside the school premises for conventional lessons. As one lot of children returned from outside, another group would be poised to take to the streets. You can follow Col Townend’s lead by renting a party bus from routemasterbuscompany.com (0207 186 1090) for £600. The bus will come to your door and take a group of 33 away for a tour of the Royal Borough, returning after 40 minutes for the next relay. Esprit de corps can still be maintained, since the private bus is equipped with music and lights and you can send a waiter to top up drinks.
Q. The other day I was at a funeral where I didn’t know many people. At the entrance to the church, I saw a rather handsome man on crutches and thought I recognised him as a cousin. I then found myself next to him in a back pew. I whispered to him: ‘Are you my cousin?’ but he thought I’d asked if he was a cousin of the deceased and replied: ‘No, I am an old friend of X’ (the deceased’s son). I spent the next few hours being exasperated that he had not revealed his name. Did I mishandle the situation?
— E.S., London W11
A. There was no need to be coy, but clearly you were unnerved by the stranger being handsome. You would have had no reservations about being straightforward had he not been. As I am sure you know, the best way of extracting someone’s name is to proffer your own. They are bound to respond by revealing theirs. If they don’t, just say: ‘And you are…?’
Q. My method for repelling cold callers is to begin by saying ‘This call is being recorded for training purposes.’ If I am feeling tired I simply press the button on my singing Homer Simpson toy.
— C.J. Lawford, Essex
A. Thank you for this useful tip.