13 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 87

Q. My wife and I have an ongoing conflict about

entertaining during the summer. She likes to entertain outdoors by the pool and on the patio. While I am not too fond of sitting in the heat, my primary objection is not to the activity itself but the length of time the guests stay. This summer relatives who were invited at 2 p.m. thought nothing of remaining around until 9.30 p.m. or even later. My idea of a compromise would be to reduce the number of hours the guests remain to, say, five. People who are invited to swim in the early afternoon should be quite willing to call it a day by 7 p.m. In fact, I believe it is inconsiderate for a guest to overstay his or her welcome beyond that. My wife feels it would be rude to set a time limit and also asks how she could possibly tell guests that they had to depart at a certain hour without offending them. Next year, Mary, what should we do? WA., Oyster Bay, New York A. Ills only natural that, once installed in a congenial poolside setting, guests should find it difficult to stir their stumps. However, if you are mentally prepared that the idyll will be finite, there should be no problem. When issuing invitations your wife need only say something along the lines of 'Do come and swim. Stay all afternoon. I don't need to be alone to get on with my paperwork until seven.'