Q. A newish friend who has very good manners lent me a DVD of his grandfather at the Olympics. I forgot to watch it. Now, a year later, he has asked for it back but I can’t find it! It is unique and irreplaceable. I feel rather guilty but did not ask to borrow the DVD and why on earth did he wait a year to ask for it back?
— E.S., Sussex
A. If the man is old enough to have a grandfather who performed at the Olympics then he is old enough to be able to judge a friend’s ability with chaos control. The fact that he foisted the DVD on you therefore almost amounts to entrapment. You can redirect some of your guilt by saying ‘I’m sure I’ll have no problem finding your DVD as I expect you would have given it to me in some sort of distinctive box with fluorescent writing on it or something? No? But surely you wouldn’t have been so irresponsible as not to flag up its importance with some sort of special packaging? Oh dear, you had better come into my house and look for it yourself as you will be better attuned to finding it.’ In this way you unload (rightfully) some of the guilt at his own door.
Q. I went to a wedding in Suffolk last weekend. The timing was this: wedding 3 p.m., then a reception of canapés and champagne (with speeches) until dinner at 7 p.m., which was followed by dancing till midnight. The bride’s father’s speech was 45 minutes long and the groom’s 17 minutes. The best man spoke for around 20. Along with most of the other guests, I felt shattered by the time the speeches ended and full of champagne and canapés. My feeling is that, unless being delivered by someone hilarious, wedding speeches should be max ten minutes each. Is this too selfish a view? We had pounding headaches the next day.
— Name and address withheld
A. A better format would have been: wedding at 5 p.m. Drinks from 6 till 7.30, speeches during dinner. Speeches no more than ten minutes each — shorter if guests have to stand. Readers planning weddings might take a tip from Peregrine Armstrong-Jones of Bentleys Entertainment: ‘I think that five minutes per speech, or less if you wish — you can just make a toast as seen often at royal occasions — is the correct running time. Those who go over are not delivering a speech, which should be short, funny and respectful; they are delivering a lecture.’
Q. I have won a bread-making machine in a raffle, but have no room for it in my small London flat. My mother says they are common. Is this true? I would like to know as it will inform my decision about who I give it to.
— S.B., London SW6
A. Yes — like anything which complicates something simple, bread-making machines are judged common in traditional circles.