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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: What’s the polite way to dodge sharing a sleeper carriage?

Plus: how to find your room at a house party; and are thank you letters a thing of the past?

22 October 2016

9:00 AM

22 October 2016

9:00 AM

Q. Next month, four of us from university are going up on a wildfowling trip north of Inverness. We are catching the night sleeper from Euston and I have been charged with booking the berths. Two of the team are in a heterosexual relationship whilst the fourth, a man I have met just once, is homosexual. Inevitably I will be expected to bunk up with him in a cabin. The problem is that I am considerably better off than the others and would much rather have my own space but I fear a personal move to first class may prompt suspicions of homophobia (which couldn’t be more wrong). How can I get around this one?
— S.H., London SW10

A. Since, in your age group, homophobes are as rare as hen’s teeth, there is virtually no risk of anyone thinking you are homophobic. They might, on the other hand, think you insufferably spoilt. Simply buy two first class berths. Explain to the other man that, since you need your own space for various reason, you didn’t see why he should suffer the intrusion of having to share with a stranger so you are treating him to an upgrade.

 Q. I was invited to stay with a friend with much more social (and alcoholic) stamina than I have myself. After a signalling problem on the train, I arrived as dinner (for 20) was being served and was ushered straight to the table. My host told me he would show me where my room was later but after dinner he began to play the piano and everyone stayed on at the table drinking and singing along. I was exhausted but didn’t want to disrupt the party mood by being a bore and asking where I should sleep. What should I have done?
— Name withheld, Suffolk

A. In the spirit of drunkenness you should have approached your host to allege that you had spilled white wine all over your clothes. Could he remain at the piano but just tell you which room you were in so you could go up and change. It is unlikely anyone would have noticed whether you came back down again.

Q. While giving lunch to a godson I handed him a sealed envelope containing a cheque for £500. Later at a family birthday dinner for him I presented him with £100 in cash in another sealed envelope. I awaited a thank you on both occasions, but got not even a text. I sent two new mothers baby dresses and have also heard nothing. Am I out of date to feel miffed?
— P.G., London SW3

A. You are right to feel miffed. Failure to thank is a form of low-grade cruelty, since the donor goes on wondering whether the present went missing. But those who are too dense and/or ill-mannered to perform this very basic act of courtesy deserve the Darwinian consequences. In the long term benefactors will always favour thankers over non-thankers.


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