Q. Although I have met most of the fellow occupants of my building at residents’ meetings, we don’t socialise. However our newest neighbour, a Canadian, has now emailed all the other women in the building offering to open up her own flat for a bonding evening of drinks and nibbles and where we would watch a movie together. She has asked each of us to name some dates in 2016 when we would be free so she can co-ordinate an evening which suits everyone. From what I have gleaned at the residents’ meetings, I don’t fancy the sort of ‘hen night’ atmosphere which she might be envisaging. I don’t want to drink and eat nibbles and watch the movie she mentions and I can already tell there is only one other woman in the block I could conceivably have anything in common with. I can’t pretend I am busy for the rest of my life but neither do I want to seem weird or unfriendly.
— J.P., Edinburgh
A. It is a mistake to be stuck up about this. It is very good to bond with neighbours for all sorts of reasons. However you can bond ‘lite’ by spending only the early part of the evening with your fellow residents, although don’t admit that is your intention when you suggest some dates with enthusiasm. On the night, turn up as early as possible and be friendly as you sip your drink while engaging in general chat about jobs and transport. One hour in, you should receive a prearranged phone call from a friend. The code should be that if you are enjoying the event, you will say, ‘Can I ring you back, I’m at a party?’ If not enjoying it, you should say, ‘Well, as you know, I’m at a party but if it’s really necessary, I’ll come back and help you.’