Q. A well-known television mogul,whom I had met only once, came to dinner at my house. I was on good culinary form and though I say it myself, the food and wine were exceptional. For various reasons it turned into an almost bespoke dinner for the mogul, in that the other guests were all people he had been desperate to meet, and so one way or another he became the guest of honour. He even struck some sort of deal with one of them. In any case we had a great evening and he thanked me profusely as he left. The next day I opened the door to find someone with an unimpressive bunch of flowers together with a card from the mogul. They looked like the sort of flowers in cellophane that one might pick up at a petrol station. Out of politeness, I wrote him an effusive card, which I realise in retrospect was the wrong thing to have done. How should I have thanked him while at the same time hinting that his floral tribute did not quite cut the mustard?
— Name and address withheld
A. You should have thanked him by text or email and included a photograph of the bunch. This image would have spoken louder than words. There is a real likelihood that either the florist has shortchanged him or that his secretary/PA had performed inadequately in her ordering.
Q. A perk of my job as a critic is a stream of press tickets to plays and ballets. I like to invite friends, but if we meet for dinner they invariably offer to pay the bill as a thank-you for the ticket. Even when I explain that the tickets haven’t cost me a penny, they insist. In wanting to treat friends, I end up the treated one. How can I avoid tussles over the bill?
— L.F., Bayswater, London
A. How about saying ‘and what’s more the tickets have come with a voucher for such and such [some local eaterie] so if you’re planning on dinner afterwards perhaps you could go there and I could join you for free’. Sort the ‘voucher’ out en route to the theatre by slipping into the restaurant and explaining the issue to them. In this way you will be able to still treat your friends to the theatre without the risk of their overdoing the payback.
Q. One of my oldest friends is a wonderful but slightly self-obsessed man. He is godfather to my second-born, but always gives money to my eldest when he sees us, and nothing to my second. How can I gently remind him that it is the other daughter who is supposed to be his goddaughter? She is only young but is starting to notice and get upset. Last time he came, he gave a wonderful crisp £50 note to her older sister.
— Name and address withheld
A. You or your daughter should email him to say she is doing a ‘friendship tree’ for a school project. It includes all her godparents. Could he help to flesh out the project by supplying a short paragraph about himself?
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