Q. My son was invited, both verbally and via Facebook, to a schoolfriend’s 16th birthday party. However, when I met the girl’s parents at school and thanked them they said, ‘Oh, doesn’t he know he’s been culled?’ They said they had to be away during that exeat, so they’d told the girl to cull the numbers right back and just have a dinner for ten with takeaway pizzas and Netflix. Now my son says the girl has told everyone (150 people) to come anyway. She says it’s the only date everyone’s free before exams start and it will ‘ruin her life’ if she can’t have it. Besides the parents won’t know. How can I alert them that their house is about to be trashed without my son being implicated as the grass?
— Name and address withheld
A. Supply the social editor of a glossy magazine with the name and contact details of the mother so she can ask permission to cover this momentous event which she has heard (from an anonymous source, obviously) will feature 150 of the coolest teenagers in town. One call or email should be enough to stir the mother from her stupor and start thinking more realistically about the likely consequences of her absence during a 16th birthday party.
Q. I have recently moved up to Scotland and have been made to feel very welcome by my new neighbours. My problem is that at parties, whenever people find out that I am a lawyer specialising in real estate, they often want me to give them free advice and it means I spend the whole party effectively working and/or ‘stuck’ and unable to circulate. How can I put a stop to this without being rude?
— Name and address withheld
A. Look animated as your interlocutor gets going, then say, ‘Oh no — what a shame. I’ll have to stop you right there. I’m not an expert in this particular area. If you email me at work, I’ll be able to put you on to someone who is an expert but I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong advice.’
Q. Is there a polite way to get rid of a third-wheeler? I was invited to have supper at a close friend’s cottage. When I arrived I found an assortment of his neighbours already there, who had been looking around his garden and were now having cups of tea. When most left, one stayed on. The friend and I wanted to have a good chat alone together but ended up inviting her to join us.
— N.C., Stroud, Glos
A. The easiest way would have been for you to say to the cottage owner, ‘Well I must be off, but do you mind if I use your loo first?’ Then, turning to the lingerer, say ‘I’ll say goodbye to you now because I may be some time.’ The thought that she has already said her goodbyes and would not want the embarrassment of having to say them again will be enough to ensure a swift departure.
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