Q. My mother died a few months ago. Her collection of colourful clothes, hats, shoes and an immense amount of costume jewellery was donated to various charity shops in nearby Devizes. Consequently, I now see a diverse range of ladies wearing one of my mother’s ‘little numbers’. If I bump into a friend festooned in these purchases, what is the right compliment to make?
— N.C., Stanton St Bernard, Wilts
A. Say nothing. Part of the joy of vintage clothing is the mystery of its provenance. The buyer can fantasise — surely it must have cost a fortune originally! It’s so chic it might even have belonged to Catherine Deneuve? Or Coco Chanel herself? Don’t let daylight in on magic. Just take quiet comfort from this posthumous proof that your mother must have been very much on your wavelength if her tastes have harmonised so clearly with those of your living friends.
Q. I have just been to a wonderful wedding and want to write a thank you letter, but when the parents of a bride are divorced and both remarried to new partners, which parent do I thank? Also, do I include the new partner in the salutation of the letter? Although it might seem weird to include the partner when they have had nothing to do with the bride either genetically or financially, surely it could equally be rude to exclude them, especially if they did a lot behind the scenes to make the event the success it was. Please advise.
— E.B., London SW10
A. The etiquette is that you should thank whoever’s name was on the invitation as the person/people inviting you. You will probably find that you were invited only by the two biological parents. Since the parents of this bride no longer live together you will have to write separate letters to thank them. But there is no need to include the partners in the salutations.
Q. I smoke 20 cigarettes a day and always make sure I carry a packet with me. What annoys me is that, whenever I bring one out at a social event, there will be a rush of people flocking towards me like gannets all saying that they gave up decades ago but they suddenly really fancy a cigarette and would I mind if they asked for one. Well the answer is yes I would mind. If everyone has one then I will be left short myself. How can I say no without creating an unfriendly vibe?
— G.N., London W1
A. When you go out take a full packet concealed about your person and another with only two cigarettes in it. Even if the first person is selfish enough to take one of your ‘last two’, no one would dream of taking the ‘last one’. In this way the demand will adapt itself to the supply and the group craving will subside. Meanwhile, you can secretly top your packet up when their backs are turned.
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