Q. I sing soprano in a small church choir, ten to 12 singers. The woman I am placed next to sings all of her high notes horribly flat, and I find it challenging to stay in tune myself. I have thought of moving but the choir is so small that such a manoeuvre would be pointed and in any case another soprano has beaten me to that strategy. My husband says the problem can be addressed only by the new choir director (who so far has done nothing) and I must remain silent. Your thoughts?
— C.E., California
A. Why not put an earplug in only one ear? Or find a way, while chatting casually to both soprano and choirmaster, to suggest that as she has such a good lower register, has she thought of singing alto? In this way you will put the choirmaster on the spot while apparently issuing a compliment to your tormentor.
Q. Seeing that you appear to be a lady of the world, I thought you might be able to assist us with an embarrassing problem. Our neighbour has got into the habit of ‘working out’ in his rear garden with a personal trainer. However, from the intermittent stream of shouts, grunts and moans emanating from there, it sounds more as if they are indulging in congress of a particularly vigorous nature. Short of throwing a bucket of water over them, what do you suggest we do to encourage them to lower their volume?
— S.P., London W11
A. I assume you don’t know this neighbour socially or you could say this verbally — so why not put a note through his door saying that for some reason the voices from his garden keep triggering your Siri throughout the training sessions. Compose your note in a light-hearted manner: ‘Only in 2019 could this be a problem…!’ etcetera. Act daft by enquiring whether the trainer could keep his voice down slightly to avoid these triggers, so that if your neighbour is a territorial type, he won’t feel you are getting at him personally. At least he will learn from this note how widely the sounds of grunting are being broadcast.
Q. Along with most of her closest friends, I have been emailed and asked to send a film of myself dancing to the favourite tune of a woman whose 40th birthday is looming. This is so a ‘historic’ compilation video can be shown at a surprise party being given for her. The party will be held in London and I cannot attend, which suits me since I am suffering from a personal obesity crisis and don’t want my whole generation of old friends to be shocked by my appearance. Yet it seems egocentric not to cooperate. What do you suggest?
— Name withheld, Sydney
A. Simply take a film of yourself tucked up in bed with alleged flu, surrounded by thermometer, Lemsip, etc — the bedclothes screening off your bulk — and warble along to the tune instead.