21 SEPTEMBER 1991, Page 55


Q. I am a 34-year-old bachelor. Because I am supposed to be eligible, I am always being asked by women I meet at dinner and drinks parties if I am married and if not why not. I do not know the answer to this, nor am I that keen on being drawn into discussion of the subject with someone I have just met — though I realise the question is often posed flirtatiously. How Can I swiftly close the subject without seeming rude? N. S. Wil A. In the more Casual and ephemeral atmosphere of a drinks party you could answer the question 'Are you married?' with an enigmatic but conclusive 'Not exactly.' At a dinner party it would be safer to allow an emotional rigour to come over your face beforeyou whisper the answer, Ask me that question again in four weeks' time.' You can continue giving this reply ad nauseam should you happen to run into the same questioner again.

Q. What is the correct way to ring a gong? I have just inherited one and would rather like to put it to use, but it has been so long since I stayed in a house where such an

Dear Mary.. .

instrument was used to summon guests to dress or to dinner that I have forgotten the rhythm with which the blows should be struck, though I seem to remember that three is the correct number of blows.

S. B. Essex A. Three gong blows are no longer suitable as they bring the unconscious association with the tension which is introduced nightly around Britain by the opening moments of the News at Ten television programme. Far better to strike one single resounding blow, such as one sees at the start of the J. Arthur Rank advertising sequences in a cinema. Occasionally you might even perform this in a loin-cloth to amuse your guests.

Q. This year I opened our garden to the public in aid of our local church roof. Various ladies were asked to bake cakes to be sold on the day and they did so. Unfortunately I have since heard that some of the cakes we sold as 'Fresh Home-baked Cakes' were, in fact, shop-bought and past their sell-by-dates with the wrappers taken off. How can I prevent this from happening again next year? Obviously we cannot taste the cakes before offering them for sale.

Name and address withheld A. Would it be possible for you to write to all the ladies involved instead of asking them verbally if they might be persuaded to provide cakes? This would afford you the opportunity to include in your letter the following piece of Euroese: 'I am obliged by law to mention that due to new EC regulations all cakes to be sold as fresh and home-baked must legally fulfil these requirements, or their supplier will stand liable to prosecution and a term of imprisonment.'