7 JULY 2007, Page 49

Dear Maly Q. Everyone over 40 in my office has bee

Dear Maly Q. Everyone over 40 in my office has been let go. I assume I have been spared the axe because Human Resources has never had a record of my date of birth. Now a mountain of paperwork has arrived from the school at which my son will take up a place in September. We, his parents, are asked to supply all manner of personal detail about ourselves including our ages. My husband is happy to give his age. I do not wish to lie about mine but if I failed to fill in the box at all, or wrote 'N/A', it might draw more attention because we have moved into a rather small and gossipy community. If I were to give my true age and anyone from the school office were to talk I truly believe I could lose my job. What should I do?

Name and address withheld A. Many well-organised parents consign the www.spectator.co.uk mountains of paperwork that come in from their children's schools to lever-arch filing systems. No one in the school office would be stuprisec4 therefore, ifyou were to return the form with the contents of the age box simply punched out by a 'carelessly' applied hole-puncher: In this way you can sidestep your difficulty.

Q. lam the organist in our small village church and am frequently approached by neighbouring church wardens and vicars as to whether I am willing to deputise in their church. I would appreciate your help in wording my enquiry as to the size of their organ without causing an embarrassed silence or a raised eyebrow.

Name and address withheld A. The conductor and director of music at Tonbridge School, Hilary Davan We/ton, advises you that, 'Since the organ is very much a hands-on instrument perhaps it would be better to discuss the number of manuals, pipes or stops, rather than making any direct reference to size.'

Q. I have just attended the fashionable River Cafe quiz in aid of a worthy charity. Most of the contestants were from the very top echelons of the intelligentsia. Although I have always prided myself on knowing things like the name of the second-longest river in the world, I was quite out of my depth at this event. My fellow team-members were able to snap out the answers almost before I had finished listening to the questions. In the unlikely event that I will be asked again, what facial expression should I wear as I am roundly humiliated?

C.B., Broadtown, Wilts A. Do not make the mistake of assuming a bored expression, as though too grand to answer such easy questions. No one was taken in when one well-known lawyer tried this tactic. Instead assume a David Dimbleby persona. Wield a pen and pad and, as each question is posed, gesture around the table for answers from the member most likely to know it. Act as scribe by collating answers and keeping a running total of points scored. By performing this service the others will hardly notice you have not answered anything yourself. They will not even wonder whether you knew any answers. They will just be grateful that you took an impartial standpoint and were happy to perform the useful role of orchestrating the proceedings.