Q. I belong to a religious congregation whose minister is politically minded. Every time I attend a service, I am forced to sit through a sermon which is bound to contain at least one reference to UK politics, unashamedly biased. The last time, at least half the sermon amounted to a political diatribe. Worse, it elicited a round of applause. Mary, what can I do? I do not want to worship elsewhere, but if this person cannot stop making partisan political speeches, thereby cheating us of a religious sermon, they should give up their position and launch themselves in politics.
— Name and address withheld
A. Why not encourage a friend, not of your parish, to attend the church one week in your company. Such a person, sitting separately, could interrupt the service, putting up his hand to say ‘You’re being far too political, you shouldn’t be.’ After the service you could engage with the minister, saying in dispassionate tones: ‘I can see why people who are feeling emotional, perhaps after a bereavement, might come to church for succour rather than a political speech. By the way,’ you could add pleasantly, ‘if you are going to be political, may I have your permission to boo and heckle, as is conventional in politics?’
Q. My next-door neighbour and I have always enjoyed a normal neighbourly relationship — nodding politely at one another but rarely entering into conversation. He has a garage, I do not. He recently bought a cat who climbs all over my new car, which now has numerous claw marks on it. Knowing that he will be unable to stop his cat climbing on my car, I have considered, in my more bitter moments, taking violent retribution against the creature. However my wife, who is very wise, has advised me against this. What should I do?
—Mike by email
A. Why not embark on a chatting relationship with your neighbour? Gradually reveal that your wife has become fond of the cat, adding that you see a lot of it now as it spends so much time on your car. Shortly afterwards, say that the only thing that puts you off getting a cat is that you’ve been told you have to make so many trips to the vet to have its claws trimmed. Does he find this a nuisance? When he says he never bothers, point to the scratch marks all over your car, insisting that you don’t mind them, but you were just worried the cat’s claws might need trimming.
Q. We have been invited to a wedding that we can’t get out of. How can my husband leave the celebrations after the speeches without giving the impression he’s not enjoying himself?
— A.T., Nottingham
A. He should get up, leaving his suit jacket on the back of his chair, and say he is just going to move his car. No one will notice if he doesn’t come back, provided the jacket remains. Later you can bring it home with you.