Q. I live in a row of town houses with a communal strip of garden in front. Three of the eight houses leave their gardens in a mess. These are not poor people — a dentist, a lawyer and a dermatologist — but they seem to lack any sense of community duty. If they had any notion of the eyesore the front of their houses presents, they could hire a garden service. It is galling that I have to clean up their gardens myself or leave the mess. How should I get them to clean up their act?
— D.W., Toronto
A. The problem may be linked to lethargy rather than micro-aggression. It is likely that the offenders keep meaning to get someone in to tackle the mess but simply don’t know how to go about it. Confide your dilemma in a reputable garden management agency and encourage them to send someone personable to knock on the neighbours’ doors to offer their services. ‘I was driving by and couldn’t help noticing that you clearly need some help here… I’m going to ask your two neighbours as well and if they are interested we can give you a group discount.’ There is no need for your own involvement to be mentioned.
Q. My husband and I gave a party in our garden to celebrate our permanent move back to the country. About 30 old friends had turned up when suddenly a Range Rover appeared and a couple we had never seen before jumped out and, without mingling, just started drinking and eating. No one else knew who they were. I did go over to say hello and introduce myself and they introduced themselves — their names were not familiar — but I didn’t like to ask them what they were doing there. Eventually they left and just waved goodbye, but I have since wondered how I could have tactfully found out why they thought they were invited?
—Name and address withheld
A. You could have asked one of your nosier guests to introduce themselves, saying: ‘May I talk to you for a bit as I don’t know anyone here? Do you know many people here? Oh! You don’t. But you do know the host?’ etc. This couple may just have been opportunistic, following a stream of cars clearly heading for an event, in the hope of having a free glass of champagne — after all, strangers often turn up at receptions following memorial services in London. More likely, however, these strangers were at the wrong party.
Q. I have a very old friend who keeps spelling my name incorrectly. It is starting to annoy me as on the odd occasion that she wants something, she spells it correctly. How should I approach her without ruining our long run?
— N.J., by email
A. Next time you hear from her, observe in your reply: ‘Btw, your spellcheck has started misspelling my name! Had you noticed?’