Q. For me the hallmark of a really close friend is someone with whom you feel comfortable enough to bring a phone call to an abrupt halt with no need for explanation. I too am over 70, but unlike your correspondent from New Zealand (Dear Mary, 9 May) am still working full-time — now from home. Yet my telephone rings throughout the day with calls from the sort of people I might see, at most, twice a year in the outside world, now wanting lengthy chats. I could just tell them that I am still working flat-out but the problem is that these are often people I feel guilty about because, to be blunt, they are keener on me than I on them and I have neglected them, and so I don’t feel I can hurt their feelings by explaining that I need to get on. Neither, obviously, can I avoid their calls at this time. What do you suggest, Mary?
— Name and address withheld
A. You should welcome the intrusions. Speaking for 30 minutes — even if you have to ring back at a more convenient time — will stand you in good stead when lockdown ends. You won’t feel the same pressure to see the callers in real life since you have already notched up credits in a virtual socialising ledger.
Q. I live in a village famous for its castle and related television series, along with an annual ‘Battle Proms’ music and firework extravaganza. My daughter is a GP in Brighton, and my wife and I, along with other local residents, applaud the wonderful NHS at 8 p.m. on a Thursday. Over the past few weeks I have been adding to this by letting off a firework at precisely 8 p.m., which has caused a few ripples in the village, where ‘city folk’ think that clapping and hitting a pan are sufficient to honour those brave folk risking their lives for us. Anonymous letters have started to appear in the village newsletter! Should I continue with the pyrotechnic (or add to it!)?
— K.P., Highclere, Berks
A. You should not be confused by other theatricals which take place in your village. The clapping is a marvellous thing for community bonding but it is now clear that it should be no more than a quiet steady ripple of applause with muffled lid-banging — for the practical reason that no one wants babies and toddlers to be woken.
Q. I was on a repatriation flight last week from my gap year travels in Argentina. Because I am 6ft 5in, the British embassy kindly arranged for me to have an extra-legroom seat and luckily I had a spare seat beside me. When we stopped in Guyana to pick up more nationals one of these new passengers saw a better seat opportunity and moved to the seat beside me. Was there any way I could have kept this seat free?
— A.H., Woodborough,Wilts
A. You could have started coughing.
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