20 OCTOBER 2001, Page 87

Q. One of my dearest friends has suffered a strange

mutation. He has become half-manhalf-mobile-telephone. The wretched thing seems to be attached to his hand. At lunch with him the other day, whenever I enquired after any mutual friend he would instantly ring them up to let them know that they were being discussed. And when my attention was distracted for a moment he started surreptitiously reading and sending text-messages. It was all very disconcerting. I quite understand that, as a top Burlington Arcade retailer, he needs to maintain contact with his commercial empire, but this mania for telephonic communication is very tiresome in the social sphere. Does any gadget exist capable of disabling mobile phones at close quarters? Or should I resort to less technological methods of control?

A. Such devices are available. They are used by restaurants and unscrupulous antiques dealers to block rival bids during auctions. They are made in Israel and can be sourced through the Internet. R.H., London W1