Q. My son has a girlfriend who we like but who has appalling table manners. They come to stay most weekends and I really find it painful to sit at a table with her and cannot understand how my son can put up with it. What would you advise, Mary?
— Name and address withheld
A. Next time they come to dinner, invite the family of a small child to eat with you and conspire with the parents to keep telling the child off for speaking with its mouth full, leaning on the table or any other infractions. In this way, you can give a proxy lecture on how his or her future will be predicated on the quality of her table manners. Meanwhile your son’s girlfriend will be invited to take part in the discussion and give her own views. It will also be a useful lesson for the child, who will not quickly forget the proper code of etiquette.
Q. We have an adorable friend who is in her late eighties, astute, amusing and regal in manner, who still takes pleasure in speaking Italian, which she learnt as a girl. In restaurants, she engages Italian waiters in intense and expressive conversations for minutes on end. Other talk at the table stalls. Food gets cold, as the waiters are halted in their tracks by her commanding air and don’t finish laying the plates. Head waiters grow infuriated with their underlings. She is oblivious to the exasperation. What can be done?
— R.D.H., London SW3
A. The impressive skill of fluency in another language, sadly in decline, is being squandered in London. Why not encourage a trip to Florence, where she can use it freely? As for solutions closer to home, stick to Middle Eastern or Asian restaurants and you should avoid the annoyance. See it as an opportunity to expand your gastronomic horizons.
Q. My sister has recently moved in with me. While she is pleasant company and a positive contributor to our home, she has an unnatural talent for sleeping through her alarms in the morning. It has reached the point where I am woken up at an ungodly hour on my days off by a cacophony of tones and vibrations coming from a variety of devices in her room. We’ve tried a conventional alarm clock but that doesn’t seem to work either. Short of having to get up and bang on her door, how can we resolve this issue?
— G.L., Warwickshire
A. This is a common problem now that so many people live in house shares, and interrupted sleep is one of the greatest obstacles to residential peace. Luckily, this is one area where technology has caught up with demand and there are many solutions on the market. This Christmas, you could give her a ‘Clocky’ alarm clock on wheels, which speeds away from the sleeper, forcing them to wake up and go after it. Waking up early is also habit-forming, so you should soon see the result you desire.