Q.A senior colleague, on discovering that I’m a friend of someone who has become quite famous, engaged with me warmly for the first time. In their youth, she alleged, she and the ‘celebrity’ had been great friends — could I arrange a reunion? My celebrity friend drew a blank, even when I supplied a photograph and CV of my colleague. Although the celebrity is a kind woman, she’s also super busy and I don’t feel I can lean on her to have a reunion with someone she may never have met. I don’t want to insult my colleague by suggesting she must be mistaken. What should I do?
— Name and address withheld
A. Let’s say the colleague’s name is Jane Smith and the celebrity’s Liz Black. Tell Jane you’ve mentioned her name to Liz (don’t mention the CV and photograph) and that Liz was thrilled but asked which Jane Smith it was? Coincidentally she knew two. Please could this one remind her of friends in common, places where they met etc. so she could distinguish which Jane Smith it was? Meanwhile, to give your colleague a face-saving way out in case she is wrong, point out that there are two celebrities called Liz Black.(There’s bound to be someone, however minor their fame, with the same name.) Has she definitely got the right one?
Q. I run a village book club. A new member, who has moved here from London, is highly intelligent with lots to say and somewhat domineering. We are not a sophisticated or brilliant bunch but, whereas before we had a cosily undemanding and harmonious little club, we are now starting to feel out of our depth and that the newcomer has brought in an unwelcome element of competitiveness. It is a small community and nobody wants to be unfriendly but two people have already dropped out and the rest are looking to me to sort this out. Help!
— Name and address withheld
A. My literary adviser suggests you prescribe Barchester Towers for your next book-club read. Although part of The Barchester Chronicles it can be read as a stand-alone novel which, pertinently, features a character named Mrs Proudie, thought to be the most bossy and domineering woman in literature. With any luck the penny will drop as your new neighbour holds forth on the subject of domineering women and the silence of the other members is elegant. She will soon mend her ways.
Q. I have started vaping, which is a great success. My problem is how to say ‘no’ to people who ask if they can try my device.
A. Switch to vapes such as Juul with detachable heads. If someone asks if they can try your device just take a spare head out of your pocket and slip it on, assuring them that you would not want them to catch anything from you.
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