Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 12 July 2018

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Q. A long-standing friend has an admirer of some means. He has invited her to borrow his fully staffed and equipped yacht and entertain a selection of guests, including myself, while we sail around the Med. I’ve become somewhat addicted to luxury and I’ve been so looking forward to this for weeks. I imagined myself lying on a lounger throughout, but I’ve now heard of a late addition to the line-up. My friend has confused good with good value and has misguidedly invited a man who has been immensely helpful in a professional capacity to some of those who will be on board. But I’ve been in a group with him before and he never draws breath. He will talk the whole way through this holiday, so being trapped on a boat with him means the break will not be restful. What should I do?

— Name and address withheld

A. Download an unabridged Audible copy of War and Peace (61 hours) to your iPhone. Greet him warmly on day one wearing headphones slung around your neck. Say you have challenged yourself and are going to fulfil the ambition of a lifetime by finally absorbing the contents of War and Peace audibly, having failed to get through the print version. Wear the headphones at all times. It will do you no harm to take this story on board — in both senses.

Q. I have room for six around my table in Ravenscourt Park and often want to invite people to supper in London on a Thursday night. However, I find that if I ask them on a Monday, they often don’t reply until the Thursday morning. If they say no, it’s too late for me to get a substitute. My generation likes to leave everything to the last minute, but how can I be stricter without putting people off?

— M.C., London W6

A. Why not send the invitations out via Snapchat, as such messages are known to disappear after 24 hours? In this way you can force your friends to sharpen their wits and be more decisive.

Q. I have started working at the BBC. The corridors are long and I often see someone I know coming towards me from a distance. Should I grin during the whole approach or pretend to notice the other person only at the last minute, and what should I say when they ask ‘Alright?’ My natural response is to give them a bit of an update on how things are going, but they seem unprepared to stop walking to listen. In Ireland, where I’ve lived most of my life, if someone asks how you are, they expect you to answer.

— Name and address withheld

A. Wear a purposeful expression on your face as you walk along a corridor. Brighten it, as though coming out of a trance, into recognition when you are within 20 feet of the colleague. You must assume that ‘Alright?’ posed in this context is a rhetorical question. Just reply ‘Alright?’ yourself and keep walking.