Q. A friend and I are giving a combined Christmas drinks party for 120 people. It’s being held at her house so I don’t feel I have the same leverage as if we were hiring somewhere. Unfortunately she has a very glamorous son and insists that he and some fellow students will make fantastic waiters (at £10 per hour each). These ‘waiters’ will know many of the guests socially and will keep stopping to chat as though they were of equal status rather than servants for the night. Food and drink will not be circulated properly and the front door will be left unattended. I don’t want to fall out with my co-host but the party will clearly be a disaster.
— M.F., London W11
A. Hire supplementary waiters behind her back and let them arrive 15 minutes after kick-off to take up the slack. It will cost you an extra £100 or so, but will be well worth the peace of mind.
Q. What do you do as a young person when you see a friend’s start-up company advertising online and there is a major grammatical error? Surely not by sending a private message — I would come off as pompous!
— Name and address withheld
A. Let’s say the new company is called Johnsmith. Get a third party, who your friend does not know, to email you: ‘What’s the correct address for Johnsmith? The Johnsmith I looked at has grammatical errors. Could be a bogus hijack?’ Forward this to the start-up owner with three exclamation marks.
Q. Hardly any married women of my acquaintance have changed their surnames. This is all to the good, but it makes addressing thank-you letters difficult, especially when one is including children, and when double barrels and titles come into the question. Should one write Mary Smith, John Hughes-Jones, Harry and Tom? Or: Mary, John, Harry and Tom Smith/Hughes-Jones? Or even — most dreadful — Mary, John, Harry and Tom Smith-Hughes-Jones? It feels silly doing Mary, John, Harry and Tom. Help!
— P.W., by email
A. Don’t fret too much — the important thing is to send the thank-you letter at all. If you are thanking just husband and wife, write Mr and Mrs John Hughes-Jones. If the feminist wife challenges you about this, you can blink blandly and explain you wanted to put the formally correct appellation in case the postman was confused. If it’s a thank you to the whole family, just write on the envelope ‘The Hughes-Joneses’.
Q. I am a fan of Botox and other tweakments but I have twice heard recently of people who think I’m standoffish. I don’t want to give this impression during the party season. How can I come across as the warm person I am?
— Name and address withheld
A. Why not wear a T-shirt saying ‘Free Hugs’?
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