31 MARCH 2007, Page 71

Q. I am self-employed and for professional reasons I often

attend formal dinners linked to my particular trade. At a recent one I was put on a table where everyone else worked for a trade magazine which, being free, depends entirely on advertising revenue. The people I was seated with, having found out in pretty short order that I was not interested in placing advertisements with their publication, completely lost interest in me and continued talking among themselves. I responded to this ill-mannered behaviour by getting up from the table and going home. Should the situation in which I found myself recur, how should I respond, making the point about bad manners on the part of my fellow diners without committing the same offence?

B.L., Barnet, Herts A. Next time come prepared with an iPod preloaded with a talking book or radio programme of interest. Use the time profitably to catch up on your listening. Sooner or later one of your fellow diners will catch your eye at which point you can withdraw an earphone and, smiling sympathetically, explain, ‘I could tell you are all very tired so I thought you would be happier if I amused myself and let you get on with networking or whatever you are doing.’