Q. I was billeted for a party in Norfolk with a couple previously unknown to me. They were more than welcoming but quite formal – hence I felt awkward about asking them if they could change a £50 note so I could leave £10 for their cleaner (it was all I had in my wallet). It seemed a bit of a crass thing to ask of this particular elderly couple. Having come from the station by taxi, I had no car of my own so couldn’t drive to a cashpoint. There were no other guests staying in the house. There were no shops within walking distance and I was getting a taxi back to the station. I agonised and ended up leaving nothing. Should I have left £50 in the circumstances? What else could I have done, Mary?
– M.L., London SW10
A. Your hosts would not have thanked you for leaving the disruptive amount of £50. Since you were in Norfolk, however, you would have been within walking distance of at least one impressive church. It would have been quite in order for you to say you were going to take a look and could they change your £50 note because you would like to leave something in the collection box. If they had no change then you would just have had to enclose a £10 note with your thank-you letter, which you would have posted the minute you returned to London.
Q. A local divorced man, who used to be a tennis coach to my husband, has started coming to use our pool. He comes too often and stays for too long. He always texts or rings to ask before he turns up – and I always say yes because I am so embarrassed for him that he could be so insensitive as to ask so often. He always thanks me when he leaves and says what wonderful, generous friends we are. His behaviour means I often don’t want to go to the pool to water the plants because he is there. How do we put a stop to this without hurting his feelings? – Name and address withheld
A. Next time he asks, reply by text that you have had to replace the chlorine with a salt-based cleaning system and the engineers have therefore advised you to limit the number of swimmers. ‘It’s such a shame,’ you can add, ‘but I’m afraid we’re putting family first.’
Q. Almost everyone we know has been invited to the 60th birthday party of a very old friend whom we haven’t seen much of since Covid. How can we discreetly check whether our exclusion from the list is a mistake or whether they have actually gone off us?
– E.H., Edinburgh
A. Have another mutual friend text them to say that you have asked them to dinner on the night in question so she assumes you haven’t been invited? Or is this a mistake?
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