Dear Serena

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

How do I get my husband to stop watching every football match on television?

Tanya, Stockwell, London

Stop him? Tanya, are you mad? Unless we're actually sharing studio flats with our blokes, football is the greatest gift God ever gave to women. You should be encouraging him to settle down and watch all the pre- and- post-match commentary as well. How else are you going to get regular two- hour bursts of time all to yourself to have a lengthy bath, go to bed with a book, have unrestricted access to the telephone and so forth without interruptions at 10- minute intervals from someone going "What have you done with my car keys?" "Did you know the kettle's boiling?" "What's the matter? You're not sulking, are you?" or "Ooh! In bed! Mind if I join you..." Rejoice in your good fortune, but be firm about the amount of time he's allowed to spend discussing the game in front of you.

A friend is getting married soon, and we all have to bring presents under the value of pounds 10 "that will improve the quality of her married life" to her hen night.

Any ideas?

Georgie, Newcastle

Yes. In the electrical stores, you can buy very handy universal remote controls for about pounds 8. A secret one of those in her handbag may not improve his married life but will certainly improve hers. Do not buy skimpy underwear, as it will merely depress her by not fitting.

I hated my school; a day hasn't gone by since I left 10 years ago without me recalling some awful aspect: the snotty girls who wouldn't talk to me because I wasn't pretty and my parents couldn't afford expensive clothes, the bully teachers who singled me out as a scapegoat, the horror of hockey. They did everything to destroy my self-confidence and nearly succeeded. I left England five years ago and keep in touch with no one from that period. I have a happy life.

Then, to my horror, I had a phone call from someone who used to be in my class and who had got my number from a friend from my primary school. The 10th-anniversary reunion is coming up. I had honestly thought I'd managed to expunge every trace of the place from my life, but now I can't sleep for worrying about it. Should I go? How should I behave? Do I have to rake up those awful memories?

Jane, Dijon, France

No, look, sweetie; if you really can't bear to go, don't go, and take satisfaction from the fact that you've cut all ties with the past. But I would actually advise you to attend; horrible memories are often best dealt with by facing them. Don't worry about people thinking you're not a grand success; anyone who has the courage to emigrate is pretty well endowed with cool points. And you'll probably be absolutely delighted in how your contemporaries have grown up: little girls who sneer about other people's wardrobes grow up into women who are too afraid of what the neighbours will think to ever do anything mould-breaking. Pretty little girls often grow up to be dumpy women. You will probably come away with a glow about how well you've done in comparison. One other thing: if you ever want to confront any of those bully teachers (and I bet that you have thought of a few things to say in those sleepless nights), the 10- year anniversary will probably be your last chance. If you leave it to the 20th anniversary, half of them will probably be dead by then.

What do I do if I'm turned away from Harrods?

Jim, London, W8

Make sure your have some tabloid photographers to hand, Jim; it might be your break into minor celebrity. And be grateful: you might have been let in.

My husband and I have booked a holiday in the Bahamas over the Christmas season and were really looking forward to it. But our nanny has thrown a spanner in the works by announcing that she would rather spend the time with her family in South Shields. Apparently accompanying us and the children to Greece and the Philippines this year does not count as holiday enough. How can she be so selfish? And how do I take steps to prevent this happening in the future?

Marina, St John's Wood, London

I suggest a trip to Saudi Arabia in the new year, where you will probably be able to find a Third Worlder (Indians and Filipinos are the most popular over there) whom you can hire, take home, discipline with whips and confine to the cellar when you don't need her. Alternatively, have the kids put down and get yourself sterilised.

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