Q. On a train journey the other day I sat opposite someone I found immensely attractive. We struck up a conversation and talked for 40 minutes until he left the train, a few stops before my own destination. I am 90 per cent sure he returned my feelings, but he was rather a shy man and we had talked for just too short a time to merit the exchange of contact details. Mary, I’m in despair but what could I have said, without seeming pushy, to ensure we could meet again?
— E.W., Exeter
A. When such a promising brief encounter occurs, swiftly taper the conversation to allow you to ask whether the love interest is familiar with… then name the most obscure book you can think of. When he replies no, say you happen to have a spare copy — he is more than welcome to it — as you have a strong feeling he would find it as interesting as you do. Ask him to quickly jot down his address so you can put it in the post. If he is interested, he will then have the means (via the card you enclose with your contact details) to take things further.
Q. For many years I have frequented an excellent small restaurant in central London where I have always been on good terms with the maitre d’. Now I have begun entertaining friends there again — but my problem is that the maitre d’ — who pre-lockdown always passed briefly by to exchange a few words — has now begun to hover at the table for so long that his presence can become disruptive. I know he is a good sort but I am at a loss as to how to put an end to this irritating development.
— D.C., London W8
A. Next time you make a reservation at the restaurant, make sure you arrive at least ten minutes before your guests. Greet the maitre d’ with warmth as you suggest: ‘Let’s have a quick catch up now before my guests arrive?’
Q. Over the years we have become friendly with other members of our local allotment community. When we noticed that a small amount of vegetables seemed to be disappearing, our son placed a very discreet camera in the corner of the shed adjacent to our plot. To our amazement, the culprit has turned out to be the next-door allotment owner, with whom we are on good terms. We do not want to cause a furore, but have you any ideas about how we can stop this antisocial habit?
— G.L., London SW15
A. Remove the camera. Then, next time you see the culprit, casually enquire whether he has noticed any of his produce disappearing, since you are fairly sure that some of your own has been taken. Say that your technically clever son has suggested installing a camera. He is happy to install one which could include your neighbour’s allotment within its range if that would be helpful? Or would he find such a camera intrusive?