Q. My mother-in-law has remarried and now lives in South America. She has a large family with nieces, grandchildren, godchildren, etc. So what she has done is ordered all these different Christmas presents for them to be sent via Amazon to my house for me to individually gift wrap and take to the post office. It is such a tedious and time-consuming job and I suspect she won’t reimburse me either. I need to stop this happening next year but how?
— Name and address withheld
A. When your mother-in-law thanks you, tell her that it was a pleasure to help. But the really good news is that seeing you faffing with all the parcels has given an idea to one of your friend’s children — a penniless but reliable student. Next year he is going to advertise a Christmas packing service on Radio H-P for people who live abroad. ‘I think he will be charging £10 an hour, with postage on top of course. Shall I give him your details?’ If she says yes you will easily find a compliant youth ready to perform the chore. Even if she replies ‘I would feel happier with you doing it for me, darling’, at least it will sink in that time and cost are involved in the favour.
Q. My daughter’s nursery day ends at 6 p.m. However, we have now been asked to arrive at 5.30 to allow time for a handover chat. These one-on-one conversations result in a lot of queuing at the gates (often until 6 p.m.), and are in addition to detailed updates and photos we already receive online.
One reason we picked this nursery was that 6 p.m. gave us a fighting chance for one of us to be able to pelt back from work in time to pick her up. Is there any way I can convey, without being rude, that I’m more than happy to keep things short and snappy at pick-up time? I don’t want the staff to think that I don’t appreciate the brilliant and important job they do taking care of her all day.
— C.L.B., Surrey
A. Put your appreciation of the nursery’s work in writing. Add that much as you would love to be able to spend more time in its happy ambiance you may be sacked from your job if you were to leave work half an hour earlier than you already do and then you would be unable to pay the nursery fees.
Q. We have recently been invited to dinner by some old friends, who, much to our surprise, requested that we take a lateral flow test before coming. As an expletive-laden refusal often offends, what is the correct etiquette in these paranoid times?
— C.N., Yorkley, Glos
A. The request has become standard and is no different in essence from specifying a dress code. The correct etiquette is to humour your host and go along with it.
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