Q. What can you do when disorganised friends say they would love to come to a concert with you but you suspect they won’t get round to buying the tickets? The concert in question, run by the Friends of the Georgian Society of Jamaica, is this Saturday at St James’s, Paddington, with folk songs collected by Dr Olive Lewin and music by Tippett and Ramirez, and I want to plan dinner afterwards. How can I, without seeming like a bully, make them get their acts together and buy tickets before they are sold out? The dynamic of our relationship is that, were I to buy them, they would feel even more hopeless.
— R.T., Asthall, Oxfordshire
A. I have checked online (www.fgsj.org.uk) and tickets to this concert are inexpensive. Just go ahead and buy two more. Tell your friends that in exchange you will leave it to them to plan the dinner. In this way you will still have power-sharing. Other people with hopeless friends get round this problem by ‘winning’ such tickets at charity auctions. It helps tip the balance with commitment-phobes.
Q. What is a good present for hosts of a country weekend? Our friends are fairly well-off, so they don’t need anything, but we don’t like to arrive empty-handed.
— C.C., Pershore, Worcestershire
A. Everyone feels nostalgia for the confectionery of their childhood. A tin or two of condensed milk is a pleasantly retro present which your friends are unlikely to stock themselves. This will enable them to recreate the fudge of their youth by heating the tins in water. It will also provide a useful debating point, since opinion is sharply divided as to whether the cans should be pierced before heating.
Q. I am a widow and have met a man of my age group who has never been married. He is wonderfully intelligent and still good-looking, but I fear he has got into bad habits, as he grunts while eating and makes low whistling noises through his nostrils. I have always been squeamish about these things. The man is 75 and too old to change his ways. What should I do about this miraculous opportunity?
— Name and address withheld
A. Why not buy a pug? You will soon conflate grunting and whistling noises with an overwhelming sense of love.
Q. Everyone knows that I am an insatiable reader so I am dreading being asked by a friend of a friend if I will read her new novel as I suspect it won’t be good. What should I say if she asks me? I would hate to undermine anyone.
— Name and address withheld
A. First establish what genre the woman is writing in — say rom-com. Then, if she asks you, say that while you do read a lot, you have started to read exclusively 21st-century fantasy and so would be unable to judge a rom-com as you would have no appetite for it.
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