14 AUGUST 2004, Page 55

Q. What is the correct attitude to strike when a

friend regularly inquires whether one has read the latest issue of The Spectator, the purpose of the inquiry being to draw one's attention to correspondence from that person in the issue in question? As the friendship is dear, I would welcome your advice on a suitable, gentle put-down.

J.V.B., St Peter Port, Guernsey A. This all sounds very Pooterish and Jam tempted to tick you off for mean-spiritedness. However, you may have supplied me with insufficient detail, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Why not reply with enthusiasm, 'Yes, and I saw your letter and I started reading it and then something distracted me. Thanks for reminding me about that. I will make a point of finishing reading it.' This should take the wind out of your dear friend's sails and serve as a gentle put-down — f you have reason to believe one is called for.