Q. I have far too many friends to be able to invite them all to my forthcoming book launch. How can I cull the numbers without causing grave offence?
— Name withheld, Edinburgh
A. Ask the publisher’s PR to send invitations from her own email address. The subject box should read ‘Invitation to a party to launch…’ followed by the title of your book, which, usually, will leave insufficient room for your name. Those who bother to click open the attachment will see that the invitation concerns you, but chances are that busy people will consign the email to spam or simply scroll past it without opening. Thus were the numbers unintentionally culled at the recent party in the ballroom of the RAF club for Elisa Segrave’s book
The Girl from Station X, yet also kept to manageable levels. It’s a benign form of culling, because those who miss out can be reassured retrospectively that they were asked.
Q. I wonder if you could settle a mild dispute between my wife and myself. She is very kindly organising a party to celebrate a significant birthday ‘milestone’ for me, and has omitted to say ‘no presents’ on the invitations. Consequently she is now being bombarded by our dear but often unimaginative friends with requests for ideas. If they are all left to their own devices, I will end up with lots of bottles of whisky (which I don’t drink) or wine (which I won’t be able to drink). What do you advise? A donation to my current favourite charity (Ukip) might be seen as divisive. Can one set up something akin to a wedding list or is this simply impermissible?
– D.R., London SW18
A. The wedding list type option is unacceptable but your desires may best be served by a modest dissimulation. Get your wife to tell your friends that you really don’t want a present but if they insist, they should have a word with, say, your brother because he knows you so well. Equip your brother with a comprehensive list.
Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? Chinese lanterns are a fire hazard, but I have found that John Lewis sells battery-driven tea lights which cause no fire risk at all and look just like real thing inside a lantern.
—Name and address withheld.
A. Thank you for this tip. The lanterns will not take off with LED lights so they will not fall to earth and be a nuisance to cows. However, they make a charming present. Battery-driven tea lights are probably slightly naff, like kitchen roll, but no one would turn up their nose at a present of them because, like kitchen roll, they are immensely useful. John Lewis LED tea lights, which last for 72 hours, cost £6 for a pack of six.
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