20 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 79

Q. Can you define the space that my theatre ticket

reserves for my personal use? I'd say that it extends from the back of the seat in front to the back of my own seat in one direction, and to half of the arm-rest in the other. If the auditorium rises in steps, the level defines one's space. Am I right? If so, am I also right to resent the way in which some women wriggle out of their coats after sitting down and throw them over both arm-rests and over the back of the seat so that a part hangs down into what I regard as the territory of the person behind? And, if you agree that this amounts to invasion of territory, what can be done about it?

K.N., Oxford A. Your definition is perfectly correct, but you can turn these invasions to your advantage. Lean for ward and pleasantly encourage the miscreant to distribute even more of her coat into your space. Assure her that it would be welcome on the grounds that your knees could do with the cushioning. She may withdraw the coat altogether out of chagrin or disgust at the thought of your knees. But if she takes you at your word and affords them some further protection from the typical theatre seat's hard back so much the better: