Q. A friend of a friend has an apartment in Venice. I would like to commiserate with her about the catastrophic floods when I see her shortly at a Christmas drinks party, but I don’t want to depress her by bringing this up at what’s meant to be a celebratory occasion and forcing her to think and talk about what damage must have been done to her property. Yet I can’t not mention it because that would make it seem like I think so little about her that I have forgotten she has an apartment there. What is the most tactful thing to say, Mary?
— M.W., London W11
A. You are right to be cautious. There is such a thing as the wrong sort of sympathy, the sort that strays into schadenfreude territory. So stay upbeat to prevent her from feeling like a victim. Why not gush gaily that you hear the Gritti Palace is still open for business as usual (true) and that you’d like to donate to a charity for the restoration or to fund action to stop further damage to the lagoon? Which organisation does she suggest? Don’t ask if she will have to swim there when she next visits. And above all don’t ask if she’s covered by insurance.
Q. My husband is on a very serious diet for health reasons. I have to make sure there are no fattening foods in the fridge as he always finds them and eats up every scrap. He can’t help himself. However, I really need to keep cheese in the fridge as my son is vegetarian and I like to be able to give him something to eat when he drops in at short notice. Don’t say ‘Hide it in the garden’, because foxes would find it.
— J.F., London SW12
A. Next time you go shopping, buy a pound of lard. Remove the contents and hide a clump of tasty cheese of the same size and weight in the wrapping. Your husband will never think to look there.
Q. The lady from Suffolk whose mother keeps losing her phone (Dear Mary, 26 October) should buy her a Tile (on Amazon and elsewhere). She can keep this in a safe place and just press the button on it when she loses her phone — the mobile will ring, even if the sound is turned down and it is out of range. This requires a smartphone and the download of the Tile app. If she does not have a smartphone, it’s possible to buy a self-adhesive Tile which can be stuck on to any phone and then ‘paged’ from a second Tile. The Tile stuck to the phone will then ring, alerting the user to the phone’s location. I have one in my wallet, one on my car keys, one on my work keys and the app on my phone. They are fantastic!
— S.R., Southport
A. Thank you for bringing me up to date. I’ve installed a Chipolo, which works on the same principle.