Q. Having retired, my husband is now an enthusiastic observer of the goldfinches, greenfinches and bullfinches in our garden. Their numbers have increased dramatically since he planted ornamental thistles and teasels, and put out feeders with nyger seed. Our kitchen has French windows which offer a commanding view over the large garden. My problem is that my husband, who has a very keen eye while I do not, keeps spotting some sort of bird activity and urgently requiring me to look at what he is seeing. ‘Look! Just on that shrub in front of you — that thin tree where I’m pointing!’ The instructions are imprecise and I always miss the sighting, which causes him immense frustration. Any suggestions?
—W.A., Knutsford, Cheshire
A. Print out a colour photo of the view from your kitchen onto A3 paper. Stick the page to the wall next to the window and make your husband point with his finger to the bush or shrub in question. This will allow you to focus your eyes on the right spot.
Q. I now commute by train 60 minutes into London and occasionally see local people on the platform whose company I enjoy and who I would like to join me on the journey. My problem is that I always travel first class and these folk always travel second. Would it be grand or patronising to ask one of them to join me and offer to upgrade them? I thought not — but last time I tried this out the man insisted on paying for himself. I am pretty sure he couldn’t afford it but wanted to save face. How should I more tactfully issue the invitation next time? Don’t ask me to join them in second. I am too old and, my wife says, too big a person all round.
—Name and address withheld
A. Approach them on the platform and ask in conspiratorial tones if they would do you a favour by joining you in first. Say ‘I’ve got to do some spending on travel for business reasons this week so it would be very helpful if you’d let me upgrade your ticket.’ If they ask you to explain the accountancy issue, shudder and say ‘It’s too boring and complicated’ before changing the subject.
Q. May I pass on a tip to readers? I recently attended a wedding in Venice with celebrations over three days. It was the groom’s second marriage and the bride’s first — she is in her forties. They realised that lots of their friends arriving would not know each other and so they issued each of us with a smart but discreet lapel badge for everyone to wear on the plane over and in the days ahead. In this way we could recognise others who were going to be at the wedding and we could all bond. It was a most successful idea which other readers may like to copy.
—Name and address withheld
A. Thank you for this tip.
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