Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 4 August 2012

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Q. A friend of mine put five Coldplay tickets up for sale on Facebook. They were £80 each and I assumed they must be very good seats. I sent her the money. When they arrived I was surprised to see that they had originally been only £45 each. I made a wry comment to this effect but she expressed no guilt; she just said, ‘I rather hoped a close friend would not buy them — it is a bit of a side business for me.’ Mary, what is your view about this behaviour?

— L.O., London W14

A. It was no surprise that your friend should wish to profiteer: her mistake was not to be straightforward. The correct protocol would have been to warn that she was making a mark-up, rather than letting people assume that the tickets were being passed among friends at cost.

Q. Can you recommend a foolproof system for finding people at unfamiliar and crowded airports? On arrival at Catania in Sicily I waited for 40 minutes before I could locate friends who had been on the same flight and with whom I was sharing a taxi to the same villa. Believe it or not, there are still luddites who do not carry mobiles.

— M.W., Wiltshire

A. Prepare for these annoyances by always travelling with a packet of party balloons and a length of string. Before you set out, write your name on some of the balloons in thick felt-tip. If necessary, you can inflate one and set it hovering over the mob so your friends can identify your whereabouts.

Q. My husband is in a band. They only play small venues, like pubs, and they have all kept their day-jobs, but they have a growing following among people who listen to their witty lyrics. When I bring friends along to gigs, how can I, without being a bore, stop them from chatting throughout the performance and not listening properly?

— Name and address withheld

A. Chatting through other people’s performances, particularly those being made by friends, is irresistible to those who wish they were on the stage themselves. In the theatre people do it by coughing repeatedly. The only way round it is to give your friends their own role in the performance. Rehearse them in shushing nearby babblers, cupping their ears theatrically and in making eye contact with fellow members of the audience who are about to offend.

Q. My son, aged 14, has been brought up in a civilised household and goes to a civilised school, but he uses expressions like ‘Cheers!’, ‘Innit’ and ‘I’m done.’ Mary, how can I stop him?

— A.O., London SW1

A. You should welcome his use of these expressions. They will act as efficient camouflage tools when he is moving in uncivilised circles.