Q. My parents brought me up to write only my name in a visitors’ book. However, following a recent long weekend in the house of a friend’s father, I was last to sign and found the other guests had all written lengthy gushing tributes to our host. If I didn’t follow suit, my own entry would seem unenthusiastic. The upshot was that I compromised and wrote my name and ‘thank you so much’. What should I have done?
—N.M., Fonthill, Wilts
A. You should have stuck to your guns and signed only your name. You could have explained to the others that since your predecessors had far exceeded your own ability to express exactly the same emotions, you would have had nothing more to add.
Q. I was walking through St James’s the other day with a potential new client when I ran into a business rival. I had no option but to make an introduction and I could see my rival putting two and two together and plotting to poach this man whose name, though not face, is widely known. How could I have avoided this introduction?
—Name and address withheld
A. ‘Excuse me if I walk ahead for a moment,’ you could have told your client as you broke step and walked in front of him so that he would have seemed like just another pedestrian in your wake. ‘Great to see you — must dash,’ you could have told your rival. Returning to your potential client — ‘So sorry. I’ve known that man for years and I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name so it would have been deeply embarrassing if I’d had to introduce you.’
Q. Your advice on how to respond to ‘You won’t remember me…’ (23 May) calls to mind a reply considered appropriate, in similar circumstances, by a former Archbishop and Primate of All Ireland. At a parochial function a woman rushed up to him and said, ‘Oh! Your Grace, you won’t remember me.’ To which he replied: ‘Is there any reason why I should?’
A. Thank you for submitting what is an enjoyable joke but only recommended for use with people with whom it can be certain you are on teasing terms.
Q. Most of our friends have young children who always get down before the pudding course as their patience is exhausted by this time. Meanwhile, the parents usually refuse a pudding for faddish reasons. Is it OK to simply not offer pudding?
—S.H., London W11
A. Always release the children as time goes so much more slowly for them and it is agony for them to stay put. Give them choc ices and send them outside to eat them. Meanwhile serve the adults faddist-friendly sheep’s cheese and non-wheat artisan crackers or oatcakes.