Q. What to do when you are an unwilling eavesdropper in a train carriage in which people you know assume they are alone and start talking very indiscreetly about someone else you know and you have left it too late to alert them to your presence?
— Name and address withheld
A. Ideally you will have access to earphones and some sort of electronic device and can walk through the carriage dopily, as though looking for a newspaper. Wrench out the headphones theatrically on seeing the talkers. In the absence of headphones, duck your head down, walk backwards to the nearest connecting doors and, when they wheeze open, walk through them with the momentum of someone who has just re-entered the carriage.
Q. Kind friends who visit know that I am a keen gardener and many assume I shall be the delighted recipient of an indoor pot plant. Unfortunately, our small house has radiators under most window ledges, and our cluttered shelves offer no parking spaces for pots, nor would the light be adequate or the temperature suitable for happy growth. How can I make it known to visitors that pot plants are not welcome here but that cut flowers are? And what am I to do with the six pots of indoor evergreens that stare at me reprovingly, needing good homes?
— I.C., Tunbridge Wells
A. Assemble these tender plants and put them on a bench outside your front door. Subsequent donors will witness the sorry scene on arrival. When challenged, you can justly claim that climate experts maintain we are living through a period of global warming so these plants should, in theory, be thriving outside and, since you have no room inside, you can only hope the weather will begin to live up to its billing. Blink stupidly as you say this. This should cure the donors of their habits and, with luck, may even prompt that offer of a good home.
Q: I am living as a long-term expat in an international hotel in Shanghai and I love to wear my silk dressing gown, particularly at the weekends. I would consider one’s house and garden as the domain where wearing it is common. But which parts of a hotel would you consider acceptable for wearing a dressing gown? Should it be restricted to one’s rooms or is it acceptable e.g. in the cafeteria or breakfast room (lobby and dining rooms being obvious exceptions)?
— Name withheld, Shanghai
A. A dressing gown, as the name suggests, is a gown worn between getting up and getting dressed. It is not suitable for wear in any part of a hotel except bedroom and bathroom. The exception to this rule is that it may be worn on the way to and from the swimming-pool and spa.
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