Q. Six months ago I invited some old friends to be my guests at a reunion dinner. We all love each other but never get round to meeting. The evening looms but my problem is that in the meantime one guest has received publicity revealing that he has become a high net worth individual. A member of my own family, famous for her parsimony, will be at the dinner and has become agitated at the thought that I will be paying for everyone out of my limited income when our newly super-rich friend could easily do it without even noticing and is bound to offer. Mary, I want this evening to be my treat. How can I subdue the tension?
—Name and address withheld
A. Some of the most lovable people prefer not to spend money and it seems your relation’s reputation has not hindered her popularity within the group. The solution is for you to have a laugh as, behind her back, you confide your dilemma in the group. Hand the HNW individual your card and four-digit pin and allow him to make a show of paying. This will keep your relation quiet.
Q. A close friend is a successful novelist and also crams in play and a young family. In short, unlike me, she manages her time with great efficiency. She is the most perceptive of all my friends but she is the only one who would not want to hear me out while I share the long, boring stories about my relationship with my boyfriend. I need to talk these issues through, so how should I best get across the message that she should be less impatient and more sympathetic?
—Name and address withheld
A. It would make more sense for you to suggest she use your boyfriend as a character in a novel. Say you will supply her with all the intimate details she needs to bring him to vivid life as long as she disguises his identity. Then book in a ten-minute slot each morning to sound off.
Q. My sister-in-law has two lovely jugs which I very much covet. They are a beautiful shade of cream with delicate raised pink enhancements and a perfect shape. I would dearly like to get my hands on them but I know that they are much admired in their present location. Nevertheless I feel that their owner would respond to the right approach. How might I couch my offer without giving offence?
A. Why not browse the sold lots at Christie’s online, then casually remark that you saw an identical pair had gone for X pounds? Add: ‘Please may I have first refusal if you ever want to sell? I’m more than happy to pay over the market rate.’ If, on the other hand, this letter is a veiled romantic overture towards your sister-in-law and you hope to signal your interest through ‘Dear Mary’, I wish to play no part in assisting your lubriciousness.
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