Q. We have reached the age when we are receiving invitations from our friends for Golden Wedding celebrations. All the invitations clearly state no presents please. It feels dreadful to arrive without a gift, especially as others have obviously ignored the hosts’ request and arrived with presents. What to do?
— M & D., Somerset
A. It is annoying for such hosts who quite emphatically ask for no presents. They are not being coy but, at their age, actually feel panic at the thought of new clutter coming into the house. In anticipation of being wrong-footed by fellow guests, contact the hosts before the party to say that under normal circumstances you would bring a present to add to the air of celebration, but since they have asked for none, could you take them out to lunch at some stage in the next few months instead? In this way you can outsmart the wrong-footers and rise above their smugness when you arrive empty-handed. Say ‘Oh, you are brave to bring a present. We didn’t dare so we are taking them out to Mark’s Club instead.’
Q. What do you do when a slightly pushy acquaintance, who is also a self-published author, asks you to put up a review on Amazon and Goodreads? Even with the best will in the world I would not have time to read it. What’s more, there is usually a good reason why it has been vanity-published, and I would not wish to put my own reputation on the line by endorsing it.
— Name and address withheld
A. If it is just an acquaintance then respond in a confessional tone, stating that it’s not something you tell a lot of people but you are actually dyslexic and read mainly detective novels. You would be willing to attempt a review but you are a very slow reader and it may be months before you can oblige. If you are known to be a professional wordsmith yourself, it would be better to say that since you have just embarked on a challenging reading marathon, namely all volumes of À la recherche, and have vowed you won’t let yourself be distracted by any more enjoyable reading material until you have reached the end, you cannot comply with the request.
Q. I recently received the following text: ‘Are you free 26th? Propose 4 p.m. Schnapps or non-alcoholic drink at Bench and on to Wright Bros as my guests for early supper 5ish?’ May I suggest that all invitations should carry the explicit proviso ‘as my guests’? If you cannot afford to take them out, you can’t afford to invite them.
— B.T., London SW5
A. It is very good to include an explicit proviso if the proposer wants to pay, but I do not agree with your final observation. Social life would ground to a halt if spongers themselves could never initiate the encounters.