Q. My husband and I have spent many happy weekends in the seaside cottage of long-standing friends. Knowing how much we love it there, they have suggested that when they go away on a forthcoming long trip abroad, we should leave the city and move into their cottage. We are hesitating because they have cameras both inside and outside the cottage and, as they often mention how being able to view the footage puts their minds at ease wherever they are in the world, we are certain they will be tempted to check up on us if we stay there. Obviously we would love to go, but how could we ensure we would not be spied on?
— Name and address withheld
A. Take up their offer saying that your husband has been under a lot of work pressure and it would be wonderful to go somewhere where you can switch off the wifi for the duration, as that would be the only way to stop him from working and give you both a complete break. With no internet, your hosts will be unable to spy. Meanwhile, if you actually do need the internet, go to a local hotel and work there.
Q. I share a surname with distant cousins whose name is synonymous with huge wealth. Often at dinner I meet someone new who makes the assumption, no offence intended, that I too must have access to billions, e.g. ‘But I expect you have your own jet…’. I don’t want to get into an unseemly explanation about why, as a member of a cadet branch of a financially successful family, I am not automatically in receipt of huge torrents of money myself. It is difficult to contradict the accuser because it looks defensive, thin-skinned or disingenuous. Can you think of an elegant way of swiftly re-educating people who hold such assumptions?
— Name and address withheld
A. Why not adjust your Wikipedia entry to include an explanation of how primogeniture and diverging professional interests have resulted in your having been bypassed by the family billions. Then smile pleasantly as you tell the accuser: ‘If you look at my Wikipedia entry, it explains why, despite my surname, I’m not loaded myself.’ Then change the subject.
Q. I recently took my car for a service and had arranged a courtesy car to travel home while the service was carried out. On presenting my driving licence to the sales assistant, she told me that she could not let me have a car because my licence had expired in August. I had to cancel the service and return home. I then found out that because of Covid-19, if a licence expires between 1 February and 31 December 2020, it will be automatically extended for 11 months from the date of expiry. Had either of us known this I could have had my car serviced and driven the courtesy car.
— A.D.S., Lymington
A. Thank you for sharing this useful tip.
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