Q. As an artist I’m indebted to my sponsor. I also like him, but not his habit of ringing me up when he has friends in the room, asking me to describe, for example, a party I’ve recently been to and then putting me on loudspeaker. It’s a good thing that he considers me to be entertaining, but I draw the line at being required to act the stand-up comic to an invisible (even if appreciative) audience. My mother says ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’. Can you rule Mary?
— Name and address withheld
A. You are not a human jukebox available to churn out anecdotes on demand. Your sponsor is, at best, insensitive to require this. At worst, he’s not in tune with your artistic sensibility if he can’t see that with these phone calls he is devaluing the currency of your own intimacies and rendering your personal relationship impersonal. Next time he calls with an audience, simply tune a radio to interference and broadcast this in your background. Say ‘This always happens when someone puts me on speakerphone. Shall we just talk later when your friends have gone?’
Q. I have noticed an increasing new trend towards being asked to ‘save the date’ for various events such as weddings or 50th birthday parties as much as 11 months in advance. While it’s lovely to be invited, we have no way of knowing if we will be free in almost a year’s time, but it seems rude to mention this. For example, having agreed nine months ago to save the date for some old friends who invited us to a wedding anniversary dinner, we now find we’ll have to forego a holiday in France with our son, that being the only week he can take time off work. Even when it’s something we definitely want to go to, we still feel uneasy about accepting so far in advance. What do you suggest?
— Name and address withheld
A. The world would grind to a halt if everyone was saving dates at the rate they are now being proposed. It’s a compliment to receive a ‘save the date’ card but it should be viewed as an announcement, not a command. You are not obliged to confirm your attendance until six weeks before.
Q. I have always done the Times crossword, almost as a ritual. It’s a form of therapy for me. However, the paper now arrives in the house after I’ve gone to work and my husband, who’s just lost his job, has begun filling in as many of the clues as he can. It does not give the same satisfaction but he says he can’t resist it. It seems petty but I really mind. What do you recommend?
— S.W., Dornoch, Sutherland
A. Your husband is probably trying to reassure himself that his brain is still working after the sacking. Make him photograph the puzzle on his iPhone and print a copy for himself to fill in, leaving the newspaper version pristine for you to tackle at your convenience.