Q. An acquaintance suggested organising a celebratory dinner in honour of some mutual friends. He asked my husband and me, along with the other proposed guests, if we would all contribute towards the cost. The evening, in the private room of a top London restaurant, was a huge success and, as agreed, the organiser paid the bill and later sent us all emails with his bank account details to reimburse him. We have now heard that the friends in whose honour the dinner was held are under the impression that the party was paid for solely by the organiser and have been singing his praises ever since. I am not suggesting he misled them, but they may not have been concentrating if or when he explained it was — financially at least — a group effort. Mary, how can we tactfully let our friends know that we all chipped in on this enjoyable evening?
— R.T.S, London SW18
A. Next time you see them, the topic of the successful dinner is bound to come up. Give due and gushing praise to the organiser, particularly for his having negotiated such a good deal with the restaurant. Say: ‘Quite frankly, considering how exquisite the food was, we all expected our individual contributions would be far higher than what we ending up being billed for.’
Q. I was taught to sit up straight and turn only my head when talking to the people on either side of me at a table. At a recent wedding the proceedings went on for longer than anticipated and my neck became painful. Had I been able to swivel my whole body around there would have been no discomfort, but this would have involved turning my back on the person on my other side. Mary, what do you suggest?
— H.S., Richmond, Yorkshire
A. When this occurs, discreetly push your chair a few inches further back from the table. This will enable you to vary the trajectory of your neck by a minimal degree but a degree which will make all the difference.
Q. I have just driven my new all-electric car to Scotland and back. I stayed with a number of kind friends and relatives. Each time I plugged my new car into their electricity overnight. I now realise I should have offered to pay for this privilege. Mary, in this bright new dawn is it permissible for hosts to ask for payment if it is not offered?
— J.C., Fyfield, Wiltshire
A. The cost is nugatory but, to avoid being thought presumptuous, a driver should enquire: ‘Do you mind if I charge my car overnight? I insist on paying. It could be as much as £7.82.’ Then your host can get a feel-good factor by replying: ‘Don’t be silly. I insist that you don’t pay.’ Meanwhile miserly hosts can install an honesty box underneath the relevant plug socket — and probably make a profit.