Q. I was invited to birthday drinks in London. On my way there the name of someone I haven’t heard from for months flashed up on my mobile. My instinct was not to answer — I’d heard the host of the party had gone off this woman and thought it best not to answer in case the woman asked what I was doing that night. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings if she’d been excluded. Nor did I want to lie. However, on arrival at the party my host told me that all was now well between him and her and she’d been invited but couldn’t come. When I rang her the next day, she said she’d been calling to say she was sorry she wouldn’t be seeing me that night. Mary, how could I have handled this better?
— Name and address withheld
A. You can avoid this sort of social ambush by texting the caller immediately with words to the effect of ‘In library/on walk without signal/in meeting. Can’t talk. Text me’. That would have bought you time to establish with your host whether the woman in question had been asked and allowed you to act accordingly.
Q. Further to your excellent advice to F.M. in Salisbury (20 April) regarding unwanted airline conversations, might I suggest what I have used in the past? As soon as the aircraft has reached cruising altitude, you apologise by adding ‘Sorry, my ears have popped and I can’t hear a word you are saying’. This leaves you clear to un-pop your ears at any time you feel like resuming the conversation.
— B.T., Lusaka, Zambia
A. Thank you for contributing this genuinely useful tip.
Q. I work quite long hours in a hotel in Venice and my time off is precious. I have become friendly with various British people who have second houses here and am often invited for meals. Recently I have observed that wine is no longer served with what is often really delicious food. The host may say ‘We don’t drink at lunchtime’. Well I do. Any suggestions?
— Name withheld, Venice
A. Volunteer your unpaid services as wine editor to a small-circulation lifestyle manual. This will allow you to justify your special needs. ‘I know you don’t like to drink at lunchtime,’ you can respond when next invited. ‘But I’m afraid I need to for professional reasons. Would it be disruptive if I brought my own?’
Q. I think the reference to the teenager-friendly gentlemen’s club (27 April) is to the East India Club in St James’s Square. When the Public Schools Club at 100 Piccadilly merged with the East India in the 1960s, they continued to offer seven years’ membership at a reduced rate if your old school nominates you.
— I.M., by email
A. Thank you for alerting school-leaving readers to this possibility.