Q. We have friends who we would like to see much more of but when they come to dinner they always stay until 1 a.m. — often a full three hours after we have got down. This even when all other guests have left, saying they have to be up early and they know we do too. This couple (who were brought up in another country) show absolutely no qualms about keeping us up. Although we like them enormously, they are a rather grand and formal couple, and we are not yet on the sort of terms where we could speak plainly and just ask them to go home. They seem to be relishing every moment and really enjoying the socialising, none of which, I might add, is particularly alcohol-fuelled. What should we do?
—S.F., London W2
A. Next time, say you want to take them to a restaurant which you have heard is wonderful — it will be your treat. In this way the evening will draw to a close naturally and if they suggest going on somewhere, you can shake your heads with regret that you have to be up early — as usual. May I take this opportunity to remind London- or other city-based readers that the traditional way to get rid of a whole dinner party full of late-stayers is to ring a taxi from another room. When the driver arrives, address the room saying ‘who ordered a cab?’ The normal element of confusion surrounding dinner parties will pre-empt suspicion and eventually one person will say, ‘well if no one wants it, I will take it because it’s probably about time I went home.’ The disruption will serve to break the spell that is holding the revellers and you will find that within minutes the lot of them have filed out.