Q. I took an old friend to Bellamy’s for lunch. We were just settling in for a proper gossip when a couple I know were shown to the next table. Now, I’m on good terms with these two, but for various reasons I don’t want to be on better terms. Nor did I want them eavesdropping. As a result my friend and I raced our way through watermelon salad, iced lobster soufflé and îles flottant and found ourselves standing outside earlier than we needed have. What should we have done?
— Name and address withheld
A. You need only have outlined your dilemma to a member of Bellamy’s staff. All are highly skilled at diplomatic manoeuvres and one would have hurried forward to move you to a bigger table, perhaps on the grounds that friends of yours had telephoned to say they were hoping to join you.
Q. I sat next to a politician at a dinner — all fine and enjoyable, but as I left I realised she had not asked me a single question, not even a ‘Where do you live?’ or a ‘What do you do?’ I also realised this is true of nearly all politicians and celebrities. How can one correct this one-sidedness?
— O.R., Pimlico, London
A. Perhaps by issuing the gentle reprimand: ‘But you must be fed up with people asking you about yourself. Do feel free to ask me anything.’ This may well backfire, of course — as in the response one civilian received from a Hollywood star on whom she tried the tactic. ‘You’re right,’ he mused. ‘That’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What did you think of my latest movie?’
Q. How can one disguise embarrassing noises in a public lavatory when the taps are releasing only a trickle of water and a two-second vacuum device is in place of the standard flush? On arrival at a recent art fair, my PA and I headed to the ladies’ loos together. Every cubicle was empty and there was nothing we could do to prevent the other one hearing Too Much Information.
— Name and address withheld
A. You could have gone quickly to Mall Music Muzak on YouTube and turned up the volume on your iPhone. This would have taken the edge off your indignity.
Q. I recently stayed in a very charming house near Aix-en-Provence. However, my experience was slightly marred by the sound of windchimes. These are supposed to convey an oriental sense of communion with wind and nature but I have always found them vexatious to the spirit, especially when a mistral is accelerating the racket. What could I have done?
— G.W., Pewsey, Wiltshire
A. No one would have noticed had you put an end to the nuisance by discreetly slipping an elastic band over the chimes.
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