Q. A friend of mine’s husband is in his nineties. They are a delightful couple but the husband has started refusing to wear his hearing aids. As a consequence his loving wife has to shout at him to get him to do what she wants — which is only ever something that is to his own advantage, for example go for a short walk in the garden, or go to the television room where there is something on in which he will be interested. In order to achieve a result she has to bawl her lungs out. This is exhausting for her. How can one persuade a recalcitrant old boy to do the decent thing and wear his hearing aids?
— M.K., London W11
A. Your friend can spare herself the indignity of shouting like a fishwife by making recordings of regular instructions. No doubt they don’t vary that much from day to day and each one can be recorded onto an iPhone or laptop. Next time she wants him to go through to the television room, she can trigger an electronic device to bawl out the message (in her own voice) at top volume for as many times as is necessary to elicit the desired response. Not only will your friend spare her voice, her husband may conclude that it would be less irritating for him to make the effort to wear the hearing aids than to put up with these prison-type announcements.
Q. We had a house party last weekend and today I got a lovely tree with a card saying ‘Thank you for a lovely racy weekend’ (it was the Grand National, not a swinging party!). The kind sender signed it ‘love from C’. My problem is we had two Carolines, one Charlotte, one Clare, one Cinty and a Cynthia staying. How do I find out who it is from?
— Confused, Huish, Wilts
A. How about emailing each guest a photo captioned ‘Can you identify? I don’t know where to plant it. x’ The non-donors will make perfunctory replies along the lines of ‘I’m useless at trees but I think it’s a leylandii.’ The donor C will write something like ‘I asked for a Magnolia Frescobaldi. The nursery should have included the care instructions. I hope you like it.’ Donor C will understand that you didn’t wish to wrongfoot the non-donors and forgive your bald enquiry.
Q. Talk at dinner turned to finance and the merits of Premium Bonds. All four of our guests complained that they had not had a win in many years. My wife and I, on the other hand, win regularly and are disappointed if a month goes by with no return. Were we right to hide this? It seemed the tactful thing to do. Details of the size of holdings, while obviously important, were never disclosed.
— Name and address withheld
A. You were correct. Transparency regarding financial triumph yields no useful results. In the baser human it breeds jealousy, while the highly evolved regard it as an imposter, treating it and disaster just the same.
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