Q. For professional reasons it is important that I am not fat. However I have put on more than a stone and a half during lockdown. This would not matter in the short term as I am not required to appear anywhere physically for some weeks and am already on a successful weight-loss programme. My problem is that one of my competitors, so to speak, rang to say that she is going to be in the area and could she drop in for lunch. My kind but unthinking husband picked up and told her that she would be welcome. Under no circumstances can I let her see how fat I have become as she will spread it around and it will really impact on my work. Mary, how can I lose 20lbs in one week?
— Name and address withheld
A. Don’t even try. Simply retire to your bedroom, or even a day bed in your garden, with a pretend burns injury to your stomach. This will justify the use of hospital-style caging to protect the injured area from chafing by the bedclothes. You could improvise this with a metal fireguard swathed in exquisite fabric to create a glamorous effect and disguise the entire low region of your body. In this way you can welcome your guest with enthusiasm, safe in the knowledge that your secret cannot be exposed.
Q. I have a neighbour who lives nearby both in London and in the country. During lockdown, we got into the habit of doing shopping for each other and then transferring what was owed into the other’s bank account. I would transfer into hers immediately; she was a bit more bohemian and disorganised about it. Now we have stopped shopping for one another and in fact she is abroad at the moment and I fear will have forgotten about the fact that she still owes me £70. I don’t want to come across as petty or bitter but I would like this money back. What do you suggest?
— Name and address withheld
A. Simulate being bohemian and disorganised yourself. When she gets back, ring to say you must settle up for the lockdown shopping — you think you still owe her around £70. ‘Really?’ she will reply: ‘What for?’ ‘Oh no,’ you can gasp. ‘I’m just looking at the receipts now. Silly me. I must be going mad. You owe me £70.’
Q. Reading the letter about the BO problem reminded me about a lovely old submariner boss of mine who recounted how he dealt with a smelly submariner on board his boat years ago. His officers had complained about a new junior officer’s BO, made worse of course as submariners live in such a confined space. The CO summoned the lad and said ‘You don’t half chuck up, sunbeam!’, and the matter was resolved. Those were the days!
— A.S., Petersfield, Hants
A. Indeed. The days when offence was rarely perceived as having been either given or taken.
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