Q. I am running out of suitable responses to a friend who now has the slightest possible connection to one of our ancient seats of learning. He never mentions his own child (who is at a very new, very undistinguished university) but goes into endless detail about his girlfriend’s daughter who is in her final year at Cambridge. In particular he can’t resist sharing his delight at being allowed to drive down Trinity Street to drop off her luggage, and the excitement he feels every time one of the college servants doffs his hat and calls him ‘Sir’. Having listened to this same anecdote at least twice a term for the past three years, I no longer know how to respond without sounding rude. Mary, what should I do?
A. Say: ‘Oh yes, do tell this story again. I never tire of it. What are friends for, after all? I expect you must have to disguise your excitement when you talk about Cambridge with your family — especially with your own child?’
Q. My eight-year-old son adores his godfather. The latter is quite chaotic so I have to invite him to lunch or they would never see each other. Yet although no one could be more lovable or better company, this godfather always arrives late by at least one hour. Part of the problem is that, because he doesn’t work, he is disorganised and finds he always still has things to do when the time comes for him to set out. He also likes to pretend he is not extremely rich and tries to travel to us by public transport which, of course, is problematic when you are trying to cross London. He doesn’t have children of his own so it hasn’t sunk in how fractious children become when they are hungry or when someone doesn’t turn up when expected. How should I deal with this?
A. Cut to the quick and tell him, next time he accepts an invitation, that you will be sending a cab for him and you insist on paying for it. It will be well worth it as you have noted he finds it hard to get to places on time as he is so busy, and you do not want to miss out on a moment of his company.
Q. My husband is a minor celebrity. Before compulsory masks he was always complaining about being recognised when he was out and about, yet I suspect he secretly enjoyed the attention because, now that he can move about without being stared at, he seems bereft. How can I make him feel better?
A. For a surprisingly affordable fee, a company called Printerpix will allow you to create a bespoke face mask online. Simply upload a photo of your husband and they will print on to the mask an image of the lower part of his face. By wearing this he can still get the attention he clearly needs.