Q. We have moved from London into a rural area where we are preparing for the first visit of a lifelong friend who has become
a self-invented countryman. I know that he will insist on foraging for mushrooms, but none of my family wants to go on kidney dialysis machines as a result of being forced to eat them. None of us (including him) are mushroom experts. Much as we love our friend, he is something of a bully. What should we do Mary?
— Name and address withheld
A. Buy in a store cupboard supply of dried chanterelles, ceps etc, and rehydrate them prior to his visit. Feign enthusiasm for making a risotto or omelette using his foraged harvest. Knock this up while his back is turned and present it as a fait accompli, after hiding his foraged mushrooms. It is only responsible to have these later authenticated by a mushroom expert so that you can alert him if you would have been in danger.
Q. I work at a well-respected academic institution with scientists drawn from all over the world. I share my office with two lovely researchers, one of whom is often away, and the other who has recently moved here from abroad. This newest office mate happens to be the same nationality as another close colleague, and they have taken to having loud conversations in another language whenever my colleague pops by with a question. It feels quite excluding and is irritatingly difficult to ignore for long. They both speak perfect English, of course. Should I feel this way? And if so what is the etiquette for tackling it?
— Name and address withheld
A. Your colleagues’ discourtesy is quite unacceptable. Put them right by the following method. Let’s imagine they are speaking in Portuguese. Interrupt to say that you are learning Portuguese yourself at the moment as a hobby, and would they mind terribly translating what they’ve just said to each other so that you can get a little bit of conversational experience. Leave your desk and walk towards them beaming each time they break into Portuguese and always ask for a translation. You will soon see an end to the nuisance.
Q. My husband and I are in our seventies and living in London. Most of our friends have retired to the country. We like to see them but it seems that we’ve become a free hotel from where they can go sightseeing and visit other friends. They do not reciprocate our hospitality. I don’t want to end long friendships but we feel that we are taken for granted. What do you suggest?
— P.D., address withheld
A. Turn the situation to your advantage by advertising on the noticeboard of your local hospital for a doctor or nurse who wishes to live with you for a small rent. Such people are already DBS-checked and the whole arrangement can be only life-enhancing for all parties. This gives you a perfect excuse to tell your friends there is no longer any room at your inn.