Q. We often have friends coming to stay before (and after) we all head off for Glyndebourne, a 20-minute drive away. What is the etiquette governing who should drive? It has drinking ramifications of course. Then, what is the etiquette of the seating plan in the car?
— A.W., Lindfield, Sussex
A. Assertive forward-planning is called for. Communicate to your guests that you are looking forward to seeing them, beds are made up, flowers in the room, etc.
And will they want to drink at Glyndebourne? No problem. But you are just planning ahead and if it turns out everyone wants to drink then you will have to draw straws before setting off. Sobriety could impede enjoyment for many, so at this point guests need to say if they don’t want to be balloted into the draw. In which case they should offer to pay for taxis at least one way. Regarding who sits where — the men should naturally sit in the front because of their longer legs. They should enquire, first, however, whether anyone else has special needs regarding car sickness.
Q. Neither my husband nor I had ever met Jeffrey Epstein but a version of his Little Black Book has been circulating online and our names are on it. We have no idea why. We find it annoying when people we hardly know ask us about him at parties in semi-accusatory tones. How should we handle this without appearing to be ‘protesting too much’?
— Names and address withheld
A. Answer calmly: ‘We were puzzled to see our names on there as Epstein never met us. But now we’ve been told that he didn’t know everyone on the list — some were people he just wanted to get to know for prestige reasons. Yes, apparently he was a terrific snob.’ Timely pause… ‘Was your name on there?’
Q. Re your suggestion that people heading for dinner in houses where it’s served too late should eat a light supper at home first, the art historian John Richardson described the secret domestic habits of indefatigable socialiser Andy Warhol in the 1980s. Warhol had a pair of devoted housekeepers, Nena and Aurora. ‘Before going out to a grand dinner,’ wrote Richardson, ‘Andy would eat a simple meal in the kitchen, especially during what he called his “turkey and mashed potatoes phase”.’
— N.J., London W11
A. It appears the solution of eating at home before going out to late-serving hosts is widespread. In his youth, one of our premier authors, who has always been fortunate enough to be able to pay, even used to make a practice of eating first at Mirabelle before turning up for dinner at the house of a (much loved) friend who was a seriously bad cook.