Q. I’ve accepted an invitation to stay in a small house party in France. My host hasn’t mentioned who else is coming. He is an old friend but he has a number of other male friends, each representing a different facet of his personality. My worry is that, should I arrive to find one of his rather boorish friends there, then my own, very subtle relationship with our host could be rendered surplus to requirements. I could make the analogy of light vs heavy artillery. What should I do if so?— Name and address withheld
A. Turn both possible outcomes to your advantage. Should you arrive to find a boor in situ, then don’t bother to compete, just treat the holiday as a sunshine break and an opportunity to catch up on reading. Should the reverse be the case, then you have a happy surprise and can work on honing your subtle relationship.
Q. Our tennis-mad daughter is a ball girl at this year’s Wimbledon, which requires her to be a towel-bearer too. But I notice one player habitually using one to blow his nose. We brought up our daughter to avoid germs, so what should she do if he tries to hand her his disgusting used towel?
— S.C., London W12
A. This arrogant player needs to be brought up short. Commentators have so little to comment on that they would soon notice if your daughter was donning disposable medical gloves at the start of each match featuring this player.
Q. A couple I know recently offered me a Freeview PVR as they were upgrading. When the wife delivered it she said ‘Don’t pay me. Just give £30 to a charity of your choice.’ This sum is more than a quarter of my weekly income (a state pension) and is a large multiple of what the device turns out to be worth. It is more than ten years old. I do not wish to lie. Should I return the device?
— J.F., Stroud, Gloucestershire
A. Do nothing. If questioned by the couple in the future, just glaze your eyes over and smile pleasantly. It would be kinder not to rob them of the sense that they have been helpful and good. Should they be outraged by your slipperiness they might mention it to someone else, who will soon put them right about the nugatory value of their ‘gift’.
Q. Your professionals who are constantly asked for free advice by friends reminded me of a story about the eminent solicitor Lord Goodman, who was approached by a surgeon at a party. The surgeon made the same lament: he was constantly being asked at parties to dispense advice to people he had never met before. He wondered whether he should send a bill to these people. Goodman said he should. The next day the surgeon received an invoice from Goodman.
— P.F., Warminster
A. Thank you for refreshing this historic nugget.