Q. I have learned that someone I much admired in youth is about to become single again. I only have the sketchiest details but am single myself and keen to know more. The one person who knows everyone and would know everything is a valued and highly amusing friend of mine, but she is also massively indiscreet and interfering. How can I find out more without arousing her suspicions re my own interest? Were she to guess it she would overplay my hand for me.
— Name and address withheld
A. Look around for a newly single man of your own vintage, then mention to your gossipy friend that he seems depressed but you are not sure why. Say no more. She will start speculating and conclude that the man is in need of a partner. Unprompted by you, who can sit back yawning, she will then run through the names of all emerging singletons supplying details of their personalities and circumstances. Once you have the information you need, throw her off the scent by asking for fuller details of another candidate.
Q. My daughter-in-law is in the habit of asking me to do some shopping or to collect prescriptions for her while she looks after her infant children. Occasionally she has asked me about the cost of items and then paid me. But on the last occasion, after I had collected a prescription for her, she asked, but then did not offer to pay. What do I say, without giving offence, to remind her that she owes me money?
— R.S., Southsea, Hants
A. Next time you hand over the shopping, say cheerily, ‘Don’t pay me now. Let’s wait till it gets to a round figure, say £30, that’s about the limit of my spare cash flow, and you can pay me back all at once. I will remind you.’
Q. A commemorative luncheon in our village will be attended by, among 30 others, my wife and three ladies with whom I have had affairs over the past 25 years. Should I keep them separate or dare I have them together at the top table which I am hosting?
— Name and address withheld
A. It would be good for the women were you to place them all at the same table, Monty Python-style. You will help them to realise that although they were silly to have fallen for a serial philanderer, he was at least a popular choice. In this way you can transform their tragedies into comedy.
Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? My husband and I need to spend a night in Oxford this weekend as he is finally receiving his degree. I left it too late to book a hotel but elation followed despair when I found the website www.universityrooms.com. We have booked a double ensuite quad-facing at Keble College for £95, and a single for our son at £65.
— A.O., Suffolk
A. How kind of you to share this useful information.
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