Q. As a young woman I tend not to wear that much to social events in the evening, but I find that in London the best conversations — and the best connections — invariably happen outside the party with the smokers. I don’t even smoke myself, but if anyone invites me to join them outside I always take them up on it. The problem is that I become freezing, almost blue with cold, after just a few minutes, yet getting my coat out of the cloakroom each time isn’t going to happen when I want to appear casual. What do you advise, Mary?
— M.M., London W11
A. Haven’t you ever wondered how partying women in Geordie-land manage to trot along the freezing night-time streets in only a few ounces of clothing? Try following their lead and ‘coat’ yourself in Deep Heat before heading out for an evening.
Q. I was having dinner in a private club with a colleague. We were discussing a third colleague, a figure very much in the public eye, when I became aware that we were being eavesdropped on by the people at the very next table. Indeed they had even stopped talking to one another so they could listen in. I thought this was bad form and wondered how I could have politely told these adjacent diners to get on with their own conversation and stop listening to ours?
— Name and address withheld
A. You are right. It is very bad form to eavesdrop in this way. They may have been so mesmerised by your material that they forgot to make the pretence of chatting to each other. You could have broken the spell by turning to them pleasantly, saying: ‘But enough about us. Let’s talk about you…’
Q. I read your advice to Judge Rinder (21 December) regarding his helpful thank-you letters to his hosts. Could I add the suggestion that rather than pointing out the activity he least enjoyed, he remark on the one he most enjoyed, and perhaps suggest that on his next visit the group might enjoy more of that (with the implication being at the expense of the less enjoyable activity). This will bolster the host’s esteem, and endorse the host’s expectation that guests enjoyed themselves, and will allow Judge Rinder to feel more positive about himself. As a bonus, all hint of offence will be avoided.
— B.C., Calgary, Isle of Mull
A. I suspect Judge Rinder was teasing himself and no one wants an end to teasing, but thank you for returning to the subject because it is worth reminding younger readers, who may be inexperienced guests, that TripAdvisor-style reviews will strike the wrong note when private hospitality has been extended. The point of a thank-you letter is merely to reassure a host that the effort they made was appreciated.