Q. A difficult couple of our acquaintance always object to other guests at dinner and can be very rude to them. In consequence, we have fallen into a pattern of dining at each other’s houses in London, just the four of us. They are sticklers for what they see as correct behaviour. Last week, however, we were told, the day before we were due to host, that they had a friend staying the night; could they bring him along? This was someone I vaguely knew, but had not seen for 20 years, and someone my wife has never met. Neither of us desired his company. I suggested perhaps we choose another date, but feathers were ruffled. Mary, what would you suggest?
— Name and address withheld
A. It would appear that, in declining to accommodate this extra friend, you secretly wanted to play the couple at their own game and punish them for their previous rudeness to your friends. However, the tease has backfired. Life is too short to lose friends, particularly difficult ones, who are often the most interesting. You have made your point so move quickly on and issue another invitation before things fester.
Q. My mother died recently. At her requiem in London, I arranged to have flowers, seasonal and full of autumn colour. An elegant blanket of these was draped over her coffin. The canon who celebrated the Mass commented repeatedly on their beauty. A day later we buried my mother in Sussex. The flowers travelled safely and, as they were laid next to her grave, the only utterance from the vicar was ‘The rabbits will feast well tonight’. Mary, what is the etiquette on sneaking back to the graveyard to save the flowers from the churchyard vermin? Should I have sneaked back at dead of night by the light of a ghostly moon? Like most gardeners, Mum would not have liked the idea of the rabbits chomping away as she, hopefully, ascended heavenwards.
— N.C., Stanton St. Bernard
A. You might have sneaked back in broad daylight and sprayed a rabbit-repelling solution of 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce and one gallon of water onto the floral blanket, remembering to protect your eyes when spraying, and to wash your hands afterwards. Rabbits dislike the taste of hot sauce.
Q. Apropos T.L.’s letter about the dangers of dancing barefoot, I recently attended a wedding and was surprised to see a large box of (new) flip-flops being loaded into a car destined for the dinner-dance venue. I was told it is now de rigueur for these to be provided so that those in precipitous heels can dance safely once their shoes have been removed.
— L.H., Cornwall
A. Thank you but party hosts will find roll-up, disposable ballet pumps at £1.50 a pair online; in safety terms, a superior option