Q. My niece, who came to stay with me in the country for the weekend, arrived without cash and asked me to lend her some for the tip. I lent £30 which she assured me she would give back immediately, but though we live very near each other in London, she has failed to drop it round to me. It’s not that I’m desperate for the £30, it’s the principle. How, without being schoolmasterly, should I convey my disapproval so my dear niece, for her own sake, can clean up her act?
— Name and address withheld
A. Next time you see your niece, bring £30 out of your wallet and hand it to her saying solemnly, ‘I think it’s very bad form not to repay a loan within the agreed timespan so I feel ashamed to have taken so long to give this back to you.’ When she asks to what debt you are referring, affect to look muddled. Then exclaim, ‘Gosh, I’m getting absent-minded. You owe me £30! Quick. Let’s go to a cashpoint. Otherwise your conscience will torment you.’
Q. A television presenter friend in his forties is just beginning to go grey. I believe he should make a pre-emptive strike and begin dyeing his hair now. He just laughs at the idea, saying he doesn’t want to impugn his integrity by such fraudulence and that he aspires to be an eminence grise. While his lack of vanity is admirable, I worry that ageism will do for this impeccable man’s career. What is your view, Mary?
— D.S., Cambridge
A. Eminences grises (other than Dimbleby, Paxman and Humphrys) are thin on the ground now that so many male politicians, rock stars etc.