Q. I have learned through a third party that a friend, who is feeling particularly insecure these days, has not been invited to the forthcoming book launch of one of our long-standing mutual friends. I don’t want to portray him as some kind of victim, but is there a way I can tactfully find out if, best-case scenario, his failure to receive an e-invitation was, as it so often is, a mistake by the publishers’ intern? Or if, worst-case scenario, he has been ruthlessly excluded on financial grounds for no longer being an ‘influencer’? This author is paying for his launch himself and it is in a private house.
— Name and address withheld
A. Telephone the author and say you’re thinking of booking a table for dinner after the launch. Will he be able to join you? The answer will certainly be no as he will have to stay till his last guests leave. Yawn as you mention the other known invitees you might ask to join you, casually adding the excludee’s name to the list. ‘Is he invited?’ If the writer replies ‘Well, he’s on the list but he hasn’t replied’, you can pass this on. If the answer is no, at least you will probably learn why, and you need never mention you made the call.
Q. May I pass on a tip to older readers who are thinking of entering the modern world by buying a smart television? (By this I mean a television which not only supplies the normal channels but on which you can also get Netflix, Amazon Prime and catch up on BBC, Channel 4 and ITV programmes which have been broadcast recently.) Be careful. I was about to spend around £450 on a new set when the kind assistant at Currys informed me that if I had something called an HDMI socket in the back of my existing set, then I needed only to buy something called an Amazon fire stick (£49.99) which would plug into that socket and, hey presto, all the extra channels would come up.
I did indeed have such a socket and my wife and I were amazed at how simple the setting-up procedure was.
— E.D.W, Dulwich, London
A. Thank you for your consideration in passing on this tip. It sounds like you bought the top-of-the-range firestick. Cheaper versions are also available.
Q. I am not a helicopter parent but every so often I need my children to actually respond to a WhatsApp message rather than just assuming that I must know they have read it because of the two blue ticks indicating that. What do you advise?
— S.T., Chirton, Wiltshire
A. Type a fairly long message to the child in question and then delete it. Their screen will show a deleted message and they will be curious about what you had been typing at such length. Curiosity will get the better of them and they will make contact to find out what it was about.