7 NOVEMBER 1992, Page 71


Q. My son-in-law, otherwise a dear fellow, makes the most awful 'slushing' noise when he eats. This habit, particularly at the breakfast table, I find most difficult to bear. Apart from the use of ear-plugs with their obvious disadvantage, can you think of any solution for me?

B.B., Cornwall A. This is a widespread problem and noto- riously difficult to deal with. The only solu- tion is to confide in close family friends and request their help. Set up a luncheon or dinner party with your son-in-law and these friends — ideally a married couple — pre- sent. The male member of the couple Should make a loud slushing noise of his wo as he eats. His wife can then intervene: m sorry darling — you're doingit!' What? Good Lord, darling, no one minds a man enjoying his food. Look, X [your son-in-law] is far worse than I am — listen to that!' he can cry bluffly, as he makes the table listen to the sound effects coming fr.om your son-in-law. He can then take up fork again and eat even more noisily. No one minds except you, darling.' He can tell his wife before addressing each person at the table in turn to ask if they mind his making 'this slushing noise'? When it is your turn you can reply, 'Actually I do mind, since you ask. I mind very much. But I was brought up never to criticise another person's table manners . . . '

Q. Is it acceptable to telephone fairly good (though middle-aged) friends from a train which is about to pass through their part of the country, and ask if you can get off and come and stay the night with them?

E.H., Amwell Street, EC1 A. Yes, you may surprise them with such a request, provided you take the following precautions. Ring up and put the proposi- tion to the friends. Then immediately, before they have a chance to be embar- rassed or panicked into accepting, say, 'Hang on, I'm running out of units. I'll go and buy another phonecard and call you back in about ten minutes.' This will give the couple a chance to dither in their own home about whether or not middle age has made them too inflexible to enjoy surprises of this nature. It will also give them time to make up an excuse. The best way for them to handle your second call, incidentally, would be for the other member of the cou- ple to answer it and feign delight and gaiety at hearing the sound of your voice. He or she can then say, 'Oh, I wish we'd known you were coming but we're literally just get- ting into the car to go out to supper!'

Q. My daughter needs coaching for com- mon entrance. How much should I expect to pay her maths teacher for carrying out this service?

ILA., London, IVWI A. The going London rate is L25 an hour.