Q. Caught in Switzerland as the ski resort shut down around my ears, and feeling like a walking health hazard, I returned to Somerset to begin splendid isolation days before it became fashionable or mandatory. I’ve been getting loads of jobs done, and the dog is happier than ever, but my peace is being perforated by London friends — the sort who associate solitude with boredom — inviting me to virtual dinner parties on Zoom at a set time with the inescapable tagline ‘we know that you have no other engagements’. After a busy day out in the garden, all I want to do is settle by the log burner with a sausage supper and catch up on MasterChef. Mary, how can I show compassionate support to those who can’t cope with their own company without compromising my own sanity?
— R.B., not in London SW3
A. Just when grumpy old men thought they had the perfect excuse to withdraw from all social intercourse, they have been caught out by Zoom. However, you might take a tip from a much-loved Yorkshire isolator who tells me: ‘One very genuine reason for me to refuse is that I have been spending several hours most evenings, maybe four or five, when I might otherwise be watching Netflix, on the telephone. The calls are mostly to people trapped in their house who would not want to join Zoom as they want something more personal.’ Why not do the same? You can then explain that this leaves you no time for virtual dinner parties. Key to this tactic is that you should actually have the conversations — you must know plenty of deserving interlocutors. The difference is that, as the originator, rather than the stuck monkey, you will not feel threatened by them.
Q. How should I react when I greet my more mature female friends following months of their not being able to dye their hair, inject Botox and keep their teeth all pearly? Even more startling will be to meet men friends who have been secretly disguising this and that. The Picture of Dorian Gray springs to mind.
— J.P., Shropshire
A. I have withheld part of your address for your own protection as your question betrays a terrible immaturity. No one should be blamed for trying to make the best of their appearance. People do it out of consideration for others as much as out of vanity. Moreover, the primary purpose of cosmetic props is not to deceive others but to keep general morale as high as possible. Blindingly white teeth and frozen Botoxed faces are not helpful, but hair dye is a different matter. Those of us who normally go to a hairdresser for lengthy highlighting treatments should not take the risk of attempting to cover up the evidence of our true age or true hair colour by trying to apply hair dye ourselves. In the short term, people would do much better to purchase a wig through the post. These can cost as little as £23.99 from annabellewigs.co.uk.
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