Q. Is there an etiquette regarding security gates? My wife and I were invited to dinner by new neighbours who have bought a house formerly owned by lifelong friends of ours. In the old days, any visitor would have just swung in off the road through the open stone gates and made their way up the drive to the house. On arrival this time, we were depressed to find black metal security gates barring our way. We waited for the sensor to open them but nothing happened. I then had to get out of the car and stand in the rain pressing buttons on an electronic panel. I waited a good minute for someone to speak and another one for the gates to open. Surely this sort of behaviour is not just pretentious, Mary, but also quite at odds with the spirit of hospitality?
— Name and address withheld
A. You are correct. But security gates serve a useful purpose — they signal that no gentleman lives behind them. On the rare occasions when they are genuinely necessary, for example when insurers demand them, arrangements must be put in place for them to open instantly when guests pull up outside.
Q. I am a twenty-something professional living in Notting Hill and blessed with the unusual fortune of having space enough to host parties. My problem is that the momentum of the dancing at these parties is ruined by guests who just walk up to the iPod dock and take control, usually changing music halfway through a track, not even waiting till it finishes. Then you have long silences while they find the songs they want, and sometimes there are YouTube ads. Then another guest does it again. I cannot afford to hire a DJ.
— R.S.A., London W11
A. In the era of short attention spans, immediate gratification and the cult of the individual, each guest is primed to believe that his or her taste in music is not only superior but must be indulged. Circumvent these disjoints by syncing your iPhone with the speakers via Bluetooth, and create a password so that only you can access it. You can then hide your iPhone on a shelf and let the playlist run, or discreetly flick through it as you read the dance floor. The (presumably drunk) guests, having searched in vain for a music source, will soon submit to the musical fait accompli.
Q. We have many guests for the weekend and have just calculated that over the course of the day each person uses at least ten glasses — this includes drinks by the pool, where we have non-breakable glasses. With a house party of ten that’s 100 glasses a day. It’s unsustainable. What do you suggest, Mary?
— A.E., Pewsey, Wilts
A. Buy peel-off alphabet stickers for identification and let each guest be responsible for his or her glass. This will also slash rates of breakage and loss.