Q. I know it’s a gaffe to ask a doctor for medical advice at a party, but what is the etiquette when the roles are reversed? Recently my own doctor has been bearding me for advice on selling furniture. Sometimes he telephones for more than half an hour. As an expert in the field, I’m happy to help him out, but when he is the one giving the advice he charges me £200 for a 30-minute consultation. It’s not about money. I would just like to tease him about this unequal playing field or at least have the satisfaction of knowing that he recognises the irony. Any advice, Mary?
— Name and address withheld
A. Next time he thanks you for your advice, say emphatically: ‘It’s a pleasure. You are never boring.’ Stay silent as he modestly chortles that he is sure he must be boring. Then say: ‘How interesting you feel that. I thought I was the one who felt guilty because of forcing you to listen to my insufferably boring health questions.’ Pause, then cry out as though you have just thought of it: ‘We should have a deal that neither of us charges the other for advice and then both of our consciences will be clear!’
Q. We recently arranged a large Sunday luncheon in Wiltshire for a mixture of friends and neighbours including an older retired couple — let’s call them ‘Yvonne and Bertie’ — who have recently moved into a nearby village house rather grandly called the Manor House. When my old friend G went up to greet Yvonne, to everyone’s astonishment she raised her arms as if to fend off the unassuming chap, and snarled, ‘Don’t come a step nearer.’ Her husband came over to me and said ‘Don’t put us next to them. We are not speaking to them.’ How should I have dealt with this grotesque display of bad manners?
— Name and address withheld
A. You might have manipulated Yvonne and Bertie by saying, ‘I’m so sorry to have put you in this difficult position by inviting you at the same time as someone you obviously dislike, but I’m sure you will have the good manners to behave in a civilised way.’ Glaring meaningfully, you would have added: ‘And in exchange I will undertake that you never meet them again under my roof.’
Q. May I suggest that you may be overlooking reasons as to why a man in his nineties stops using his hearing aids (23 April). He may not have seen his audiologist for some time and his hearing might have deteriorated, requiring the aids to be retuned. Fitting new batteries is a fiddly operation which an elderly gentleman could find very difficult. My own aid has a wax-filter in the earpiece which is even harder to change, but if it is blocked the sound is very poor. Many of your solutions are ingenious and often amusing. This one is neither.
— P.F., London N1
A. Thank you for this helpful reprimand.
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