Q. Our best friends own a house in Morocco which sleeps about ten. They rent it out but go two or three times a year themselves and always invite as many people as they can cram in. They have much more social stamina than we have, so whenever they invite us, we beg that it can be just the four of us. They agree but always renege at the last minute and invite others on the grounds that it will be ‘much jollier’. We just want time alone with them in their undiluted company and we find big house parties mentally exhausting. But it’s not our house so we can’t lay down the law. Next time, Mary, how can we ensure we are the only guests?
—S.R., Haddington, East Lothian
A. Enquire whether you can rent the house yourself for a special occasion. Then invite the owners to come as your guests.
Q. Is it rude to bring a book to a wedding? One wouldn’t read during the vows, but at country house weddings there are lulls and longueurs between church at 2 p.m. and shuttle bus at 3 a.m. My boyfriend forbade me to bring a novel to a wedding in Ireland. I flagged badly after 1.30 a.m. and think no one would have minded me reading in a corner of the marquee, but he says it’s bad manners. Who’s right?
— L.F., Bayswater, London
A. One has every sympathy but your boyfriend is definitely right. A wedding is a stage and all the men and women players. Your role is to enter into the spirit of the event and pretend to be fascinated and moved by it. To read a novel would suggest you have found another, imaginary, world more interesting than the real-life dramatic event you are at the centre of.