Q. Like many of his profession, Manolo, my most-proficient masseur, has the gift of the gab and maintains a garrulous monologue throughout my weekly session. This would be all right if he did not constantly break off from his pummelling to make a point — or just spout. Often (I’ve checked with his clock) his pauses to elaborate on an anonymous patient’s therapy can add up to 15 minutes of my 45-minute session, which is disconcerting, as massage is costly. How can I halt Manolo’s volubility without using words which might offend or affect the efficacy of his work? (Pretending to meditate is out of the question as my collaboration is needed: ‘Turn on to your back,’ etc.)
— T. D., Majorca
A. Next time tell Manolo: ‘I want you to promise to be strict with me today and don’t let me talk during our session. I love to chat, as you know, but one of my best friends has treatments each week, and he has just told me that I would get more health benefits from a quiet massage. So if I say anything, just don’t respond. And let’s catch up at the end of the session.’
Q. Recently at the dog park, a catty dog owner loudly remarked that ‘only well-behaved dogs should be allowed here’. Worried that my over-enthusiastic greyhound might upset her sensitivities, I called to him to leave. He had had a good run. On turning around, I saw her boxer urinating on my pram, the owner conveniently looking away. What should I have done?
— Adelaide B., Melbourne
A. The catty woman was clearly just projecting her guilt about her own dog’s past or latent behaviour. Next time you see her, don’t mention the urination incident. Instead make a point of putting her at ease by admiring her boxer and enthusing about how lucky the dogs are to be able to discharge their excess energy in this park. Friendliness and forgiveness, rather than attack, are more often the best means of defence.
Q. Looking through my address book, I have found a large quantity of people who I never see at all and haven’t heard from for years. What do you suggest I do about this, Mary?
— I.W., London SW7
A. This is no reflection on your personal popularity. People drift naturally apart when they live at inconvenient distances or develop contrasting alcoholic needs. Give a party specifically for the people you never see, sending out printed invitations containing your contact details. Expect a third to accept. It will, of course, be a shock to observe the collective decrepitude of this vintage bunch but a memento mori will do none of you any harm. The gathering, offering all the sentimental rewards of a funeral but without any of the sadness, is bound to be a cracking success — it could be almost the starter scene for a thriller.