Q. I have been working (from home) for a TV comedy production company for a year. My job is scouting for scripts. In my spare time I have been co-writing a comedy script with a friend. Had I not been its co-author, I would have judged it perfect for the company I work for — but I have only met my bosses in real life once and didn’t pitch it for fear of embarrassing them if they didn’t like it, or making them question my judgment in assessing other scripts for them. Now my co-writer has interest from another production company and I’m worried that if they made a success of it, my bosses would be annoyed that I failed to offer it to them first. Mary, what do I do?
— A.J., London SW8
A. Wait until the rival company makes a definite move. Then run the script past your own company saying that obviously they can have first refusal. Thus you show loyalty while also providing a face-saver if they decide your script is not for them.
Q. My partner and I are working from home and have a problem with very talkative workmen. I have tried to set boundaries by serving tea and coffee and a nice range of biscuits twice a day to signal set chatting times, but one of them still butts in to conversations that do not concern him. He also takes ten minutes to describe an aspect of his work that would take anyone else one minute and has an awful habit of addressing the same topic from several angles. Mary, is there any solution other than finding a different carpenter?
— R.W., Congleton, Cheshire
A. Put a stop to this disruption by starting to wear headphones which, for all the workmen know, may well be connected to Bluetooth. Occasionally walk towards them to say something and theatrically remove the headphones as though you can’t hear a word they are saying with the headphones on. Once they realise they will have to ask you to take off the headphones before they can address you, they will think better of it.
Q. A New Friend recently bought a secondhand copy of a book I wrote some years ago. She found this inscription inside: ‘Dearest [Very Old Friend’s Name], with all my love.’ I am delighted the book will be read by New Friend but somewhat surprised by Very Old Friend’s detachment and dispatch. They certainly don’t need the fiver the book fetched. I feel a little like Lady Ann Smiley must have done about that Ronson lighter. I want to bring the matter up with Very Old Friend. But how, Mary?
— M.E.F.B., London SW1
A. How about, when next chatting to VOF, saying: ‘Oh by the way, I noticed NF the other day is reading my book. So sweet of you to recommend it and lend it to her. I hope she’ll remember to give it back.’
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