Q. Just before Covid, we moved out of London with the intention of having a quiet life in the country. We were surprised to find that, although remote, the area offers almost as many potential friends as the city. We were welcomed and we did go out and had people back. Yet no matter how compatible our neighbours were turning out to be, it confirmed for us that actually we don’t want too active a social life down here. We were wondering what to do about this when Covid intervened. Now that social things are about to take off again, we are faced with a big dilemma because, especially with our being newcomers, it will not go down well to say ‘no thanks’. This is not my being conceited. People are bored around here. What should we do?
A. Let the word go out that, for various reasons too boring to talk about, you now find yourselves in a wifi and mobile blackspot. Then remove the answering service from your landline. No one can take offence if they have not even been able to issue an invitation for you to reject. (Install a second landline with answering service and ex-directory number for people you do want to hear from.)
Q. My much-in-demand hairdresser cannot fit me in until the end of the month. Meanwhile I’ve heard that a sneaky friend, who I introduced to this hairdresser in the first place, invited her to lunch in her garden, and persuaded her to cut not only my friend’s hair but also her husband’s. Since she knows how desperate I am to have my own hair done, I feel this friend has definitely breached etiquette by jumping the queue. What should I say to her?
A. Your friend is obviously friendlier than you are to the hairdresser, or you could have done the same. In old Dublin, the traditional way of ensuring a workman would turn up was to say to the electrician or plumber: ‘Would you like to come round for a drink sometime… and bring your tools?’
Q. I was furloughed from work and have been in isolation since March with only my mother as a companion. We are both foodies, specifically enjoying dishes with plenty of butter, and have been indulging many gluttonous habits. I never put on weight but am aware I have become disgustingly spotty. This has not bothered me because I haven’t been seeing anyone, but I have suddenly been called back into the office and I am starting to worry about my off-putting appearance. Mary, what should I do?
A. The answer is staring you in the face. Make it clear that you have adopted a strict Covid-19 policy and wear your mask to work in the short-term, until your complexion has had time to correct itself.