Q. We hired a villa in the Camargue through the so-called ‘Sloane web’. You either know the uber-Sloane who runs it or you don’t. All his properties are in perfect taste and located in idyllic spots. No one is ripped off. However, we have just returned from a villa whose (Sloane) owner stayed on in an annexe close by for the first three days and continued to do lengths in the pool every morning and join us for dinner every night, dropping names all through the courses to justify her presence. She was fine as a person but we had paid to have the villa to ourselves. What should we have done?
— Name and address withheld
A. After dinner on the first night you should have used the fond farewell tactic, saying ‘Lovely seeing you. Let’s make a date for your next visit.’ When she retorted ‘Well, I’ll see you tomorrow,’ you would have replied, ‘’Fraid not. We’ve got a financial adviser coming. We’ll need complete privacy, even at the pool. We’ll let you know when the coast is clear.’
Q. Is there a correct way to shuffle playing-cards? A friend who plays bridge at my house shuffles by dividing the pack in two and then, using fingers and thumbs, she melds the two halves horizontally, in the process bending each card. This grisly ritual is repeated seven times ‘for luck’. As a result my ‘good’ cards (the Smythsons, the Tiffanys…) are kept hidden, and we play bridge with my by-now bruised and battered Bicycles.
— J.L., Cape Town
A. Bridge tutor at Kitchenbridge Barry Farncombe replies: ‘The friend is “rifle shuffling” the cards, but sadly only completing half the shuffle, which is leading to the bent cards. Once the cards have been bent into two halves, they should be bent in the opposite direction, arching the cards so they cascade back into one pack, and there will be no bends in the cards (this is the most common shuffle used by magicians). The Tiffany and Smythson cards are suited to the ‘overhead shuffle’ only, due to their size. Even that shuffle will cause damage over time as the edges of the cards collide with the other cards. But Bicycle cards are perfect for rifling, as long as the reverse bend takes place.’ Why not boast to the friend that you have had shuffling lessons and show her the correct way?
Q. I live alone but my 15-year-old grandson will be coming to stay with me several times this winter. I love his visits but alas he spends most of his time in his bedroom. How can I socialise with him?
— Name and address withheld
A. Turn off the central heating during his visits but have a powerful electric heater on in the kitchen. You will soon find your grandson settling happily beside you (no doubt with his iPhone). He may even look up from it on occasion and offer to help you with some of the washing up.