Q. It was 10 p.m. by the time the canapés appeared and by then it was already too late. The well-oiled guests, including many old friends, were not drawn from the widest gene pool; many of the men had been to ‘school’ and there was a large Oxbridge contingent, of which I was one. I was doing my best to amuse an attractive woman while my wife’s back was turned when the spouse of a well-known Guardian journalist cut me off mid-flow. ‘You’ve come up!’ she declared, apropos of absolutely nothing. ‘You’ve come up a long way, haven’t you?’ It is true that I grew up in an unfashionable part of south London and went to a minor public school before going to Oxford and then the City. I may also have married a daughter of the landed gentry, but I have always had to paddle my own boat financially. I pride myself on being able to come up with a riposte but this time my wits let me down. Mary, what should I have said?
— Name and address withheld
A. You might have quipped: ‘It’s kind of you to say so, but you must have heard the old adage “it’s tough at the top”. That’s turned out to be true… But I believe it’s even tougher at the bottom?’
Q. Your response to my letter about men barraging me with emails containing Guardian articles, plus their mini sermons on politics, falls short of your usually helpful replies. You have got sidetracked by the gender of the senders, assuming the emails are a form of flirtation. They may be (or may not) but they are still extremely irritating, and many others I know are plagued by lecturing emails. Please address the problem of how to stop this?
— E.S., London W11
A. Tell the offenders your computer puts emails into the spam folder when they contain articles, and you cannot stop that, so please could they send only personal messages from now on.
Q. Having worked with Boris, albeit in the capacity of general dogsbody, for the full duration of his editorship of The Spectator, I am getting thoroughly fed up with the unrelenting venom people feel obliged to spout on learning I once worked with him. I make it plain to these people that, like almost everyone who worked with him, I was very fond of him and tell them true stories that show him in a good light. But this does nothing to shut them up. I am convinced they are merely virtue-signalling as they invariably spout their invective with raised voices so others in the vicinity can hear them. How can I deal with such people without being rude or sounding peevish?
— J.P., Cheltenham
A. Just shake your head sadly as you muse, as though to yourself alone: ‘Ah well. You often come across that anger when someone is particularly brilliant and successful…’
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