8 NOVEMBER 2003, Page 95

Q. My wife and I invited a friend to dinner

along with another mutual friend. He told this fourth party that he could not 'hack' the journey to Streatham, where we live, suggesting that we meet instead at an expensive Mayfair restaurant. take everyone out,' he told her. This delighted us, since we could not afford this restaurant otherwise. Since I have an 'in' there, through business, I was asked to book the table. Consequently the bill was presented to me, and my friend, telling a long anecdote, seemed oblivious. Finally I flung my credit card on to the table hoping he would at least throw in his own and pay half, but the waiter picked up the card and took it away. As I was signing our friend cried, 'Oh my dear. You've paid! You shouldn't have done! But thank you.' What should I have done, Mary? I know this man is not mean, just super-rich and oblivious to the problems of those who are not.

Name and address withheld

A. You should have replied, 'Oh my goodness, you are quite right, I shouldn't have done. How rude of me. This was your treat. Don't worry,. I insist that you pay.' And then ; called the waiter back.