Dear Serena

MODERN MANNERS: YOUR CUT-OUT-AND-KEEP GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE MINEFIELD

Dear Serena,

Help!!! Why is my new version of Windows so different from my old one? Why can't they make them at least look like the old one? And where on earth is the word count on Word Pad? Have I made a dreadful mistake? Should I just throw the whole thing away and go back to my old computer?

Patricia, Weybridge

Don't panic, Patricia: this is a common affliction known as Novotechnologicans Firstweekiensis, or Gates's Luddism. It affects the whole population, including those who have spent years at university learning to suck air through their teeth and say: "And you bought this in a shop last week? I didn't think they made these any more." Symptoms include sweating palms, tearfulness, sudden urges to hurl expensive machinery at walls and a longing for the days when all you had to understand was how to get the tops off childproof bottles. It will pass in the next seven days, and you will spend the next month boring people about the speed, colour monitor, games capacity etc of your wonderful new toy. There isn't a word count on Word Pad. Do a search for Microsoft Word; if you don't have it, you're probably on an IBM - call up Lotus Smartsuite. The word count is in Edit.

I'm off to Portugal with a group of friends shortly and, though I know that the most common way of dealing with money on communal holidays is to have a kitty, I don't drink and don't see why I should subsidise everybody else. What is the fairest way of dividing up the communal funds?

Willy, Prestatyn

Good lord, man, pull yourself together. What kind of holiday are you going to have if you're getting worked up before you even reach the airport? Your friends will probably be aware of your sobriety and make allowances in your kitty contributions anyway, and if they don't think of it themselves, will probably cheerfully do so if you point it out - mildly, please - even though they will probably end up, as a result, subsidising your teetotaler's pudding and sugar-laden drink habits. Do you really distrust these people so much? If so, you either need to find some new friends or get some help with the control issues that are so obviously plaguing you.

Question Time is coming to my town soon, and I was hoping for some tips on how to guarantee getting on to ask my question.

Roger, Leicester

Simple, Roger. The BBC have controlled the inevitable rush for tickets by ruling that you cannot join the audience of Question Time if you do not own a cardigan.

Have you any suggestions as to how to go about disciplining other people's children? Parents seem so touchy about threats of violence these days.

Harriet, Bognor Regis

Yes. I was always a firm believer in the expedient of bribery. That was until I met an air hostess who has to deal with children who scream throughout flights, thereby increasing the incidence of Air Rage, and learned the secrets of The Look. Bend down to the child's level, put your nose roughly two inches from theirs, jut your jaw and stare, unblinking, into their eyes for a minimum five seconds. The Look, effectively practised, will produce blissful silence all the way from Luton to the Costa Brava. Please note: this does not work on men who have been drinking their duty- free allowance in the smoking area, as they will merely think that you have been drinking too.

Knotty problems with the world today? Send them to The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, where they will be treated with the customary sympathy

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