Q. Everyone was divine at a very jolly lunch I attended in the Cotswolds with the exception of one person, who everyone else seems to know and like, but about whom I have always had a mild phobia. Fortunately I didn’t have to sit anywhere near him but when I wrote to my host he told me this particular man had asked for my contact details. I really don’t want him to make contact with me. How can I duck out of this in a diplomatic way, Mary?
– N.H., Gloucestershire
A. You will have to just say ‘do pass them on’. If an invitation from the feared figure is then forthcoming respond immediately. Thank him with enthusiasm but explain that since you owe so many people a return of hospitality, you have had to impose a strict rule upon yourself. You have determined not to accept any new invitations until you have cleared your decks, at which unspecified point you will be in touch.
Q. In the 18 June issue, you provided a useful guide to the etiquette of ‘turning’ at formal dinners. While I admit there is a sensible logic to this practice, it presents real difficulty (and embarrassment) to those who, like me, suffer from unilateral hearing loss. I am virtually deaf in my left ear, making conversation with the person on that side almost impossible. My right ear, on the other hand, hears perfectly, so conversation with the person to my right poses no problem whatsoever. I wonder if you have any advice for the (surprisingly numerous) sufferers of one-sided hearing loss?
– Daniel, London SE13
A. When it is the moment to turn to the person on your left/right simply ask if she would mind swapping seats with you for that one course. You can alert your host to this plan before you all sit down. The host needs to be ready to discourage confused others from following your lead.
Q. I would like to share a little anecdote which may be of interest to other readers seeking inspiration for what to bring to people having you to stay. During the heatwave I spent two nights with my sister-in-law. I arrived empty-handed as she has very specific tastes. Meanwhile it was too hot to bring chocolates or wine in the car. Flowers? She has a garden full of them. Then inspiration struck – my sister-in-law happened to be reading her household renewal papers from an insurance company which specified the need for fire extinguishers on every floor of her thatched house. Hey, presto! I went on the Homebase website and ordered a brace of powder extinguishers (£13 each). They were delivered the next morning. She was far more grateful for these than chocolates or wine. – P.A., address withheld
A. Thank you for sharing this useful suggestion.
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