Q. A close friend, who has lost most of her income in recent years, has done something disfiguring to a front tooth – it looks as if she’s used Polyfilla to repair it herself. She tries to never smile so no one will see, but sadly it is highly visible. I’d be happy to pay for a dentist for her but she is proud and would hate me to patronise her.
– Name and address withheld
A. Collude with your own dentist. If the dentist is the right sort, you may be able to spin your friend a yarn – for example that, for the purposes of teaching junior dentists, your dentist, who has become a bit of a friend, has asked you to look out for a volunteer patient on whom to demonstrate reconstructive surgery. In this way you could coax your friend into the chair, where all necessary treatment can be performed as though she is doing a favour to the dentist – secretly paid for by you.
Q. Re the art of turning: at a recent (seated) dinner party, many people were turning in wrong directions, some talking in groups of three (usually a sign of someone not turning). Mary, please advise what to do as a host so that every guest gets their fair share of attention. I have tried asking a guest to turn to a neglected neighbour only to be told that his conversation was being interrupted.
– Name and address withheld
A. It is a sign of a successful party if dinner guests are talking in clusters of three but only if neighbours on the peripheries of these clusters are not left staring ahead like spare parts. As host, you need to keep an eagle eye out for this and go directly to the culprit, saying, for instance, ‘James. Let me help you push your chair back so that Sarah [the spare part] can join in.’ Junior readers may not know the etiquette of turning. Reminder: the chief male host starts by turning to the person on his right, switching sides when the second course is served. All other guests should follow his lead in a domino pattern for each course. Certain royals speak for two courses to the guest on their right but the norm is to switch with every course.
Q. We have dug a natural pond which is proving very popular. Our problem is that when we invite people from the village to come up for a swim, they weirdly seem to treat it as a village resource and lie on the loungers for many hours after they have swum. How can I say ‘Do come up for a swim but don’t stay for more than two hours’? It is so embarrassing that it has not occurred to them that we mightn’t want them hanging around for so long.
– V.P., Northumberland
A. Next time you invite someone, say: ‘We’ve got a slot between two and four today. Would you like to come up for a swim then?’
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