Q. Is there a polite way of not letting someone hold your baby? I love giving mine to people to hold but I don’t like it when he gets handed back to me stinking of someone’s perfume. Is there a kind way of keeping him away from anyone I don’t like the smell of, ideally without giving my son a bad reputation?
— Name and address withheld
A. Everyone will agree that the smell of clean baby trumps any other and that such a smell should never be overwhelmed. But there is no way of politely preventing handling by the over-perfumed. You must put up with it. After all, babies are changed three times a day so you won’t have to suffer for long and it is a small price to pay for the joy you grant to the handler. But why do you know over-perfumed people in the first place?
Q. I was interested to read your letter regarding children tipping. There was no one to tip in the self-catering holiday cottage I rented in Cornwall last week but I would welcome your guidance on another matter. When you invite school friends of your children to stay without their parents for a beach holiday, is it up to you as the host to cover all their expenses for hiring wetsuits, surfboards, ferries to Padstow and other necessities? My son had three friends to stay and although the boys were charming and helpful with washing up and playing with younger children, they all arrived empty-handed, and the costs mounted up. Am I right in thinking that the parents should have sent them with money?
— Name and address withheld
A. The parents probably needed to be prompted. While emailing or phoning to confirm arrangements, you could have added, ‘I reckon they will need no more than around £20 [say] per day to cover the costs of hiring equipment and so on.’ No parent will mind being reminded in this way, or think you unreasonable or inhospitable. After all, you are not charging rent or child-minding fees.
Q. Neighbours, who I don’t know that well but would like to know better, told me earlier in the year that they would be giving a big party in October. I see no reason for them to have mentioned it to me if they were not going to invite me, but I can’t be sure they have not changed their minds or had to cull numbers. My problem is that my mother wants me to take her on holiday to Croatia in October and obviously I need to book it. It would be sod’s law for me to book the holiday to coincide with this party. How can I find out when it is without seeming pushy?
— Name withheld, Suffolk
A. Invite your most interesting friends to stay with you in October. Then ring the neighbours. Say (for example), ‘I’ve got Barry and Lizzie Humphries coming to stay in October and they’d love to meet you. Can you come to dinner? They haven’t finalised a date yet but what weekends are you free?’
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