Q. I know this seems petty but last year, on our villa holiday, my brother-in-law always took the best chair at the pool. This was a teak lounger with flat armrests on which books or drinks could be rested, and an adjustable section to prop up the knees. Everyone else was on plastic numbers. If anyone deserved the best chair, it should have been me, his host, who he knows has two dodgy knees. My sister is sensitive about him, so direct criticism or even teasing are out of the question as the whole topic is too combustible. Any suggestions, Mary? We are taking the same villa again this year.
—Name and address withheld
A. The villa managers are at fault here. It is divisive to have first- and second-rate seating at a pool — so ring ahead and see if they can correct the problem before you arrive. If not, smear honey on the back of the key chair so that it is attractive to insects. Once your brother in law has rejected it, clean off the honey with cleansing wipes and get into the seat yourself.
Q. On my gap year I met a great guy, who I am now seeing. We have just got back to England and my problem is that when certain of my friends find out I have my (first) boyfriend, they will want to know every single detail and will keep nagging and be really offended if I don’t tell them. I don’t want to share this private stuff with them but if I don’t then they will conclude, rightly, that I think it’s weird how they always give way too much information. What should I do?
—Name and address withheld
A. Deliver the news like this. ‘I have good news and bad news. The bad news is I promised him I would not — like — talk about him because — like — he is very old-fashioned. The good news is I do now have a boyfriend.’ It is never wise to confide details of intimacy and especially unwise to gloat over prowess, as this invariably triggers rival bids for the hand of the suitor in question. Therefore if your girlfriends assume as a result of your secrecy that some sort of non-ideal situation is being concealed, so much the better.
Q. May I pass on a horticultural tip to readers who have neighbours living nearby? Night-scented stock is invaluable at this time of year as it releases its overpoweringly sweet — but welcomingly so — aroma at just the right time of day to mask the smell of onions and sub-standard meat products coming from a next-door barbecue.
— G.A.W., Pewsey, Wilts
A. Thank you. This hardy annual (Matthiona bicornis) needs to be sown in March, April or May to have it ready for June, July and August.
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