8 SEPTEMBER 2001, Page 63

Q. When holding a glass of champagne at receptions where

a speech is being given, I often wonder what one is supposed to do about clapping. It seems to me that you can either playfully pat the hand holding the champagne and thus risk spillage or even breakage, or else simply smile. Neither of these options seems adequate, and since I am usually one of the tallest men in any gathering I feel self-conscious about standing out in the crowd and being apparently unresponsive. What should I do, Mary?

A.B., London W8 A. With your free hand unbutton the bottom three buttons on your shirt. You will find that slapping the stomach will produce a very realistic clapping noise at the same time as helping to loosen up the proceedings.