Q. How can I discipline inconsiderate people who do not reply properly to wedding invitations? I am being driven demented by replies on cards from people who have scrawled, for example, what looks like ‘Tom M’ and ‘James P’, which do not correspond to anything on my list. I refused to spoon-feed guests by enclosing a reply card but, even if I had done so, it would not have mitigated the problem of scrawlers and nickname users. How do these young people manage to hold down jobs if they cannot comprehend that the mother of the bride, to whom they are replying, might not know who they are?
— J.P., Stratford
A. Bear in mind that the scrawling reflects the fact that in a digital age many of these young people will have had no recent experience of handwriting. Moreover, the vanity and self-importance encouraged by social media leads to the assumption that everyone will be as interested in Tom M and James P as they are themselves and will therefore know who they are. Turn these nuisances to your advantage. The lack of clarity will legitimise a telephone chase-up of those who have failed to reply at all. With juniors, this is likely to be the case in around 25 per cent of invitees right up until a couple of days before the ceremony.
Q. I was wondering what one should reply when asked, ‘You don’t remember me, do you?’ I was caught out by this recently.
— M.E.B., Stoke by Nayland
A. First of all, it is a breach of etiquette to pose such a chippy question with its obvious intention to wrongfoot. The correct opening gambit is ‘You won’t remember me but we met at …’ Should someone put you on the spot like this, do not feed their paranoia by apologising. Instead you might reply, ‘Your voice is so familiar but I don’t have my contact lenses/correct glasses on so you’ll have to tell me who you are.’
Q. I live alone in the country for most of the week while my wife is working in London. Our children have left home and we no longer have a daily woman or gardener. Hence I have become used to ‘discussing’ things with our dog, posing rhetorical questions and suchlike. However, I have on recent occasions found myself talking to myself in our local high street and feel I ought to put a stop to this habit of thinking aloud when out and about in public. What should I do, Mary?
— C.B., Petworth
A. Don’t bother correcting this harmless habit of using the dog as a sounding board. It helps you to clarify your thoughts. Instead get into the habit of wearing mobile phone earphones when you go out to the high street. These devices are widely worn by people who want to remain hands free while prattling away. Just tuck the end into a pocket. If anyone hears you thinking aloud in future, they will simply assume you are on a call.