Q. The other day a dear friend rang from her car with all the time in the world to burn as she crawled along the Hammersmith flyover. I was at my desk working, as I politely told her. Now she has described me as unfriendly. How can one appropriately deal with the frequent asymmetry on the leisure-work spectrum of two interlocutors as a result of the use of the mobile when walking or in a car or train?
— O.R., London SW1
A. The busy one should say: ‘How lovely to hear from you. Can I ring you back later when I’m alone?’ The suggestion that there is someone else in the background will be enough to dispel any paranoia in the time-waster about an unfriendly tone of voice.
Q. I have noticed that more people who come to visit ask if they have to take their shoes off. As I work from home, I am often in slippers or socks. I have taken to putting my shoes on to answer the door, but this doesn’t stop the question, and some insist on removing their footwear, often revealing unpleasant toes. There’s nothing I hate more than people padding about my house in their socks as if they own it. Mary, how can I stop this?
P.W., London NW1
A. Claim to have taken up a shrapnel-producing hobby such as framing and announce, as guests arrive, that they should stay booted for their own safety as there may be spicules of glass and pins underfoot.
Q. Two years ago I moved to Brussels and found a job. Soon after, I fell in love with one of my colleagues, with whom I now live. At the same time, I reconnected with an old school friend, whose father was recently appointed as the head of the company at which I work. As part of a reorganisation drive, he sacked my boyfriend. How do I maintain my friendship with my old school friend while keeping loyal to my disgruntled other half?
— D.S.D., Brussels
A. Why do you want to visit the sin of the father upon his son? It is the father, not the son, who has sacked your boyfriend — no problem here. In fact, all to the good if your old school friend can get to know and like your boyfriend. He can then tip his father off that he made a big mistake in sacking him.
Q. A vegan friend who comes to stay asks us to buy in almond milk and gluten-free bread. This is not easy to find as most gluten-free bread has eggs in it. Would it be all right for me to ask her to get in cow’s milk and bacon next time I go to stay with her?
— Name and address withheld
A. Vegans view their animal-cruelty-free homes as sanctuaries so no, it would be unkind to put her code of hospitality to the test. Let her keep her little moral identity, enjoy her company and eat bacon elsewhere.