Q. During lockdown I made good friends with a neighbour who I would never have met otherwise. This man lives so close that he now regularly comes to informal dinners at our house. Unfortunately he has a habit of ‘double dipping’ his used fork into jars of redcurrant jelly, mustard, whatever — even though I always supply saucers and teaspoons. It means I have to throw away half-full jars when he has left. How can I stop this without drawing attention to his table manners and making him feel too shy to come again? I want to introduce this adorable man to other friends but feel I can’t while he has this disgusting habit.
— Name withheld, Bath
A. Next time your new friend comes, invite other guests and ask everyone if they would like, for example, redcurrant jelly? Fill eggcups off-stage accordingly and as you bring them in, each with its own saucer and teaspoon, explain the eggcups are a present from a child who bought them with her own pocket money and keeps asking if you like them. Since you never eat boiled eggs, by using them in this way you can honestly tell her that they have been useful.
Q. I am giving a Christmas party in December and sent out invitations last month in good time for friends to arrange accommodation, as I live in the country. Unbeknownst to me — an acquaintance sent out, in May, a save-the-date for the same day. The friends we share are now undecided about what to do. Yes, there has been uncertainty over Covid rules but they have heard nothing since May and some have said they are definitely coming to mine. Others are still waiting to hear. Mary, whose invitation takes precedence in the event both parties go ahead?
— Name withheld, NSW
A. The rival event takes precedence — but the rival host is at fault. Although you can issue a save-the-date for up to two years ahead, you need to firm up with the actual invitation no later than eight weeks before the date saved. Ask one of your shared guests to pleasantly enquire whether the first party is still going ahead as, if so, they would like to book accommodation. Pose the question very much in the mood of ‘no one would blame you if you have postponed it due to the Covid uncertainty’. This will force the rival host’s hand and at least the uncertainty will be at an end.
Q. I know I have written before about my husband losing things like wallets, car keys, etc, but my daughter mentioned today that in your bank app you can now apply a ‘hold’ on your cards, stopping them being used without cancelling them. Then when you find them under the bed or in the car or wherever, in one minute you can use them again.
— A.E., Pewsey, Wilts
A. Thank you for this most useful tip.
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