31 DECEMBER 1994, Page 39


Q. This year what seemed like dozens of my contemporaries (i.e. people getting on a bit) decided to get married. I gave ruinously expensive presents and parties, yet within months the marriages collapsed. Too well brought up to ask for my money back, I won- der if society would countenance conditional presents in future, perhaps on the first anniversary? I do not want to seem mean, but my stock of first growths is dwindling.

Grey Gowrie A. In your position as chairman of the Arts Council you must know of a brilliant Painter who suffers from artist's block.

be a painting from him or her to De given as a wedding present to the engaged couple. With any luck, the artist will not have put brush to canvas by the time the marriage has broken up. You can then transfer the commission onto the next engaged couple. If by any chance the paint- ing does materialise, you will have the satis- faction of having been instrumental in his renaissance.

Q. A month or so ago I had a truly embar- rassing experience. It was evening, about seven, and I was expecting my friend Enuna. She was coming from work, and we were going to get elaborately dressed up to go out. The intercom rang and I buzzed

Dear Mary. . .

Emma in; a second later I heard footsteps in the communal hallway and called en route to the bathroom, where I was brush- ing my teeth, 'Come in, darling, and get your kit off. I won't be a minute.' There was a stunned silence and gasp. Some two min- utes later Emma appeared. Apparently, I had told my middle-aged, married neigh- bour, who comes from an extremely modest ethnic group, to take her clothes off, 'dar- ling'! We were never friends, but we were on terms of politeness. Now she thinks I have made a completely gratuitous pass at her, and I cringe whenever I see her. What am Ito do?

Mrs Julie (Burchill) Landesman, WC1 A. Is your neighbour aware that you are a writer of national renown? Why not ask the art department of your magazine, the Mod- em Review, to knock up some artwork for a poster advertising 'COME IN, DARLING, AND GET YOUR KIT OFF — THE NEW NOVEL BY JULIE BURCHILL. Stick the poster up in your communal hallway for a few days and your ethnic neighbour will soon realise what a great misunderstanding was almost perpetrated.

Q. Sometimes at a party when I have had a drink or two and am expressing myself vol- ubly, I find I have launched a morsel of half-chewed canapé on to the lapel or bosom of whomever I am talking to. Polite- ly the other party pretends not to notice, as I do when it happens to me. I then find my eyes glued to the morsel, praying for it to disappear, and conversation is apt to with- er. Should I apologise, walk away, or make an effort to retrieve the morsel? This would only draw attention to my ineptitude and if it was resting on a bosom, could be gravely misunderstood.

Sir Ludovic Kennedy A. You underestimate the pleasure which would be afforded to the recipient of such a distinguished pellet. Many party-goers would submit happily to your manual removal of the detritus and the few who found it revolt- ing would nevertheless be gratified by the fleeting sense of superiority allowed to them by your buccal incontinence.