Q. Was I right to feel aggrieved when, having contributed a bottle of fine champagne to a small supper party, I clocked the host stashing it away, only to serve something far inferior? Commenting would have been naff, but had I known that was this gentleman’s style, I wouldn’t have taken such a nice bottle. What is the correct form?
— M.R., Tibenham, Norfolk
A. Grander hosts do not welcome contributions of alcohol but, at such an intimate event in Norfolk, your host should have served the champagne. (I assume you arrived with it chilled.) Perhaps he felt you were upstaging him by bringing something of higher quality than he had proposed offering. One way to outwit such perversity is to say: ‘I’ve brought this champagne as a contribution, but I won’t be offended if you say no, as I’ve got someone else I could bring it to next week if you’ve got something else in mind.’
Q. I recently went to a lunch following a memorial service. A shy and stuttering young man stood up to address the marquee. I am told his speech was witty but those of us at the back could not hear it. To shout ‘Speak up!’ would have been inappropriate given his delicacy. What should we have done?
— B.A., London W8
A. You should have waited for the first ripple of laughter and stood up to say: ‘We missed that joke at the back. Would you mind speaking up a bit?’
Q. I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday as a guest at a villa in Cap Ferrat. The only time I had to put my hand in my pocket was for a rental car at Nice airport. I shared this cost with a fellow guest who I hadn’t met before the trip but who had volunteered to organise the booking. Unfortunately someone damaged the vehicle when it was parked, and we have been billed by the car hire company for €950, which was the excess on the policy. Mary, I feel resentful about paying my ‘share’ as I feel my fellow guest should have said something before the holiday like ‘By the way, I have gone for the cheapest option, which means we have a huge excess.’ Do you agree? If so, how can I most tactfully decline to pay?
— Name and address withheld
A. The boring answer is that you should have taken responsibility for the co-purchase and asked to see the small print on the booking. What seasoned travellers do is purchase (before picking up the car) a separate insurance excess (CDW) policy from worldwideinsure.com (01892 833338). They will take on the excess for you, from £16.45 for a week covering you up to £5,000 or from £19.25 for up to £50,000. Meanwhile, you will have to grin and bear it as you pay the €475. Take the attitude that now you have this knowledge in your arsenal, you will be making no further such losses in the future.