Q. At every drinks party one will be in mid-conversation with another guest and someone will walk over and loiter briefly. If I know the new arrival I will introduce them, and if not I will introduce both of us, and describe what we are discussing so the new person can join in. But I am bored by people who arrive and merely say to me or the other guest something like, ‘Oh I saw Milo in Scotland last week’, ending the original discussion and cutting out one of the original guests.
— G.F., Gasper, Wiltshire
A. Most people make this mistake out of nerves and are perfectly happy with a gentle prod to mind their manners so the conversation can continue to flow. There is no need for anyone to take offence. If it is you who has been excluded, put them on the spot by saying, ‘Oh. May I eavesdrop on this even though I don’t know who Milo is?’ If the new person has excluded your original interlocutor, let’s call him ‘John’, respond ‘I’m longing to hear about Milo. Don’t forget to tell me later.’ When he retorts ‘I’ll tell you now’, reply: ‘Well I’d love that but sadly I don’t think John knows who Milo is. Shall we put him in the picture?’
Q. We are assembling an eight for bridge. We have the seven but the eighth is only 75 per cent sure he can come. I can’t get a definitive yes or not out of him, but without him our bridge afternoon will collapse. What to do?
— C.M., London SW12
A. In 1890s Paris, spare young men sat around in evening dress waiting to be summoned should someone drop out of dinner leaving the host with 13. They were called ‘quatorzièmes’. Why not go ahead now and invite a ‘huitième’? Worst case you will have one over, but they can serve the drinks. The spare person should be the 75 per cent person, who knows he deserves this punishment but will probably be happy to sit out and look at his iPhone for a hand. Also, if only seven turn up, it is possible to play two tables of bridge simultaneously, because whoever is dummy on one table (i.e. sitting out the hand) can jump onto the other table during the bidding round. It’s not ideal but it can be done.
Q. Twice in the last week — once on a train and once in the London Library — I have found myself sitting next to gentlemen who have fallen asleep and started to snore loudly. Both times it was proper rattling, back-of-the-throat stuff. It put me off my reading and was clearly annoying others. Should I have elbowed?
— L.F., London W2
A. A snoring friend would welcome an elbow, but physical intervention with strangers is unwise in 2018. Better to record the snoring on your iPhone, then play it back at top volume to shock the sleeper to his senses. Press stop as soon as he wakes up, befuddled and confused. ‘Would you like a glass of water?’ you can ask pleasantly. Wondering why you have offered one will stop him from nodding off again.
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