Q. I love my boyfriend but he has a terrible habit I was unaware of before he moved in. If he uses honey, Philadephia cheese, Sudocrem or anything at all with a lid, he leaves the lid off. He has been living at home until now and his mum spoiled him by never telling him off. I don’t want to have to follow him around all day or spoil our relationship by nagging him, because he actually gets quite petulant when I do and says: ‘Get a life.’ We are both 27. Any suggestions?
— F.C., London W11
A. You will have to use a loss-leader technique to deal with this. Collect dead insects from window corners. Your friends will have plenty if you have none yourself. Scatter the insects into said jars, so that next time he goes to help himself to honey etc there is a revolting flotsam on the top. This will be a waste of money, of course, but not that much money. It will be a worthwhile investment.
Q. I am bothered by the way Americans only ever seem to eat with a fork. I was brought up to use a knife and fork. I was told that if one wanted to transfer peas from the plate to one’s mouth, the best strategy was to crush a number of peas against some mashed potato and then impale that on the prongs of one’s fork. I was told that one should never use the fork as a scoop, although in reality it is sometimes necessary. An American cuts his meat with his knife, lays the knife down, transfers his fork to his right hand and scoops up the meat. At other times I see them spending a great deal of time trying to chase bits of food around their plate when the use of a knife would make life much easier. I want to ask them why they cannot use both tools simultaneously. Is there a correct and polite way of doing this?
— G.B., London N4
A. You may raise the topic, but not at a dinner table as this could introduce self-consciousness. Wait until you and the offending American are on a walk, say, then open the debate by inquiring whether, on a visit to America, you should chop your food in order to fit in. Say ‘I know some English people find the American system off-putting — I don’t. But do Americans in their turn find our system of eating with knife and fork offputting?’ It’s worth noting that even sophisticated Americans will chop and load.
Q. I am always being put on the spot by people ringing with awkward social requests which I would rather receive by email or text so I can consider them. When people ring me I always feel I must show enthusiasm and end up accepting things I really don’t want to go to. Any advice, Mary?
— Name and address withheld
A. Listen to the request, then say: ‘Oh goodness. My washing machine has just gone on to high-spin cycle and I can’t hear a word you are saying. Can I ring you back when it has stopped?’
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