Dear Serena

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

I'm an organic farmer in my spare time, and like to mix with straightforward, simple folk. My partner's son, however, has fallen in with a fast crowd and has admitted to taking illicit substances. I am furious. Aside from the legal implications, I'm having trouble enough convincing my mother that this family is one I should be associated with. I've spoken to the boy on the telephone, but he doesn't show a speck of remorse. What should I do?

Charles, London SW1

Have you thought of growing hemp? It is a marvellously robust and versatile crop, and takes happily to organic methods. Close contact with the plant will probably calm you down.

I'm highly ambitious, and want to maximise my business opportunities in the film industry. Where do all the movers and shakers hang out?

Hugh, Hollywood

The Beverly Hills branch of Narcotics Anonymous is one of the most effective networking establishments in the world. Join today, and you'll have a bulging contacts book for the rest of your life.

I'm currently setting up a private members' club in Soho. What features should I go for to ensure that the right sort of creative people join?

Ollie, London W1

You could base some nice branding around the membership cards, which will work as advertising in their own right. A card that is wallet-sized, made of metal, with a fine edge suitable for cutting with, is guaranteed to be waved frequently under the noses of the sort of person who makes for the liveliest evenings.

I write children's books, and am worried that I'm getting out of touch with my market-place. Do you know any ditties current in the youth sector that might give me inspiration?

Priscilla, Wilmslow

You could try this, which I picked up in an Islington playground on a recent shopping trip: "Charlie, Charlie,/ Give me your wrapper, do/ Don't get snarly/ I've got something here for you./ The purest is always nicest/ but I can't afford the prices,/ but you'd look sweet upon the seat/ of a cubicle made for two."

Any suggestions as to how I can get my son into Eton?

Alasdair, Worksop

A gram of Bolivian marching powder in a silver paper envelope? Oh, no, sorry; that's the parties, not the school. Apparently, you have to pass exams to get in to the school, and you're not allowed lavatory breaks.

My son has announced his intention of going into PR as a career. Should I be worried?

Andrew, Gloucs

Yes. While PR is a fine career for the energetic and gregarious, it has its pitfalls, not the least of which is the danger of mixing with tabloid hacks. But if your son has already learnt the value of discretion, he may well enjoy making the most of his contacts, though there will always be a small risk that he will end up engaged to a game-show hostess or member of the Royal Family.

Should I be laying in supplies for the millennium, in case of shortages?

Liam, London N1

Probably. Flights will be a lottery at the end of the year, so it will be impossible to guarantee who, let alone what, will make it in and out of South America.

Every time I get hold of a pounds 50 note, I always seem to wind up losing it. Any ideas where they might be going?

Will, Notting Hill

Have you checked your top pockets? You'll probably find them rolled up in there.

Just as things were settling down after my boyfriend's acrimonious marriage break-up, and I was hoping people might accept our relationship, I find myself torn between my son and my lover. My son has been indiscreet, and my boyfriend is so furious that I doubt, now, that we will ever get married. But the boy is still my son. Whose side should I take?

Cammy, Gloucs

Your boyfriend sounds like a prince among men. Ditch the kid; you have your future to think of.

My mother's bloke has taken it upon himself to play paterfamilias, reading me the Riot Act about my social life and lecturing his two sons about how I am not a good example. Does he have any right to interfere? It's not as if he's even my bloody stepfather.

Tom, Cannes

Next time he tries it on, tell him firmly to sod off. Who does he think he is? The King of England?

Knotty problems with the world today? Write to The Independent, 18th Floor, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL, where they will be treated with the customary sympathy

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