Q. Is there a tactful way to ask people with whom you’ve been interacting on an almost daily basis over two or more years, what their names are? This couple are neighbours and our dogs play together in the park each week. I wasn’t listening when they first introduced themselves and now I’ve got no way of finding out, as I don’t know any of the other neighbours. Twice in the park friends have come along and introduced themselves to the couple, but they have never volunteered their own names other than saying ‘We’re Tommy’s parents.’ (Tommy being their dog.) What should I do?
— Name and address withheld
A. Use this as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Buy a will-writing kit from WHSmith and ask the couple to witness it.
Q. Some years ago my mother revisited a house in Oban where she had lived. She contacted the owner to say she and my father would be passing through and could they possibly drop in? He’d said yes. When they arrived, the new owner invited them to sit down and have a cup of tea but explained his wife had been called away urgently. My mother asked to use the loo and went upstairs. Realising that the host had taken my father out to look at the garden, my mother took the opportunity to tiptoe around the bedrooms and have a snoop. Not satisfied with simply looking into the master bedroom, she even opened the wardrobe door. Inside she found the man’s wife hiding. It was deeply embarrassing and even after all these years we are wondering what witty remark she could have used to defuse the situation?
— C.M., Edinburgh
A. Other than saying ‘Et tu?’, the conventional response when two people are confronted by each other in an embarrassing situation e.g. two men (or women these days) in a brothel, the protocol is to pretend it hasn’t happened. Best simply to close the wardrobe door, go back downstairs and carry on with the cup of tea — and then leave normally.
Q. We have an old friend who we adore, but he has a famously dusty wallet and it annoys my husband that he never leaves anything for our cleaner after he has stayed the night. He’s just been to stay again and after he left we found a pile of coins lying next to the relaxator chair where he had been sunbathing. My husband swapped these for a £20 note and left it in his room for our cleaner. How do we stand morally? Was this theft?
— A.H., Basingstoke, Hants
A. Morally, you should have communicated with your friend that you had found the money but asked would he like you to swap the coins for a note and leave them in his room for the cleaner? That would have put him nicely on the spot and cleared up the matter once and for all.
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