Q. This autumn I will be studying in Paris. A friend from Italy will also be studying there and she wants us to share a flat. She is amazing and I worship her but, the problem is that I need to be alone first thing in the morning — and she wants to talk. The truth, ridiculous or not, is that if I can’t have my mental privacy at this time, I am much less productive. Although she knows how I feel, whenever we have stayed the night under the same roof, the moment I put a foot out of bed she somehow knows and comes into my room talking. I know she thinks she can just overwhelm what she sees as my neurosis by being charismatic. What do you think I should do? I really want to live with her.
— V.I., London W12
A. Many readers will sympathise. One, who has unsuccessfully begged her regular guest time and again not to talk to her first thing, has this week been reduced to booking into a B&B for a night to get a break from his chatter. Turn this on-going nuisance to your advantage by taking up meditation. You can learn the rudiments in no time and it requires no equipment — just privacy. Agree to live with the girl you worship but explain that you will be meditating first thing each morning. Meanwhile keep a camping kettle in your bedroom and the food you require for breakfast. If she tries your door (for which you will have had the sense to buy a 49p door-wedge), silently slide a meditation leaflet out from under it. She will soon learn the boundaries — especially if you can be relied upon to be good value later in the day.
Q. This year my income has plummeted. Various kind friends have paid for things like air fares and villa holidays and insist on paying in restaurants. But yesterday I heard a man in a similar position to myself being described as a ‘professional sucker-up’ and I feel demoralised. How can I find out if everyone is saying this about me?
— J.H., Devon
A. Some probably are saying it — purely because people like to launder their own character flaws by projecting them on to those they are gossiping about. But you should not take this personally. Remember that the ‘paydar’ of the rich is acute and they can usually tell whether hypocrisy is involved in a friendship. As long as your own conscience is clear regarding sucking-up, you have nothing to worry about.
Q. You recently decreed that no one should eat an apple in company, unless they are at a table and can chop it with a knife. What about a banana?
— F.W., Wilts
A. A banana is a different matter, as there is none of the same noise or fallout as when teeth impact on the more explosive apple flesh.