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

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Dear Serena,

Apropos the letter from Steph last week, my wife and I have been longing for our 40-year-old children to finally decide that they can do their own Christmases rather than relying on us to do it all for them. It's a bit late this year, but how do we break it to them that this Christmas will be the last one?

John and Mary, Hull

Obviously, you're going to have a bit of a problem organising a jolly Christmas for yourselves in the exceptional year ahead of us, what everything being booked up already for the millennium. Still, it's worth a try.

At some time while the horrors of this Christmas are still high in everybody's minds - in early January, say - announce that you're going away next Christmas. This will give your children plenty of time to sulk, tell their friends how rejected they feel, have counselling and so on, and still, by the time December comes around, have made some suitable arrangements and even be quite looking forward to ruling their own roosts.

You don't actually have to spend the money on going away, by the way. Just leave the answering machine on for a week, and ring the young on Christmas day from a mobile phone whose batteries are low, with a hypnosis tape playing in the background so it sounds as though you're shipboard. If anybody want to see photos, say you dropped the camera in the Jacuzzi.

Although I am a crack dealer, I have a social conscience and would like to pay my taxes. How do I best go about declaring my income without letting on what it's for?

Paul, Kilburn

Declare the money as cash gifts from Mohamed al-Fayed. No one will ever question this assertion, and in fact, you may well find yourself being offered a safe seat at the next election on the grounds of your extreme honesty.

I was on the Circle Line late last Friday night, when I looked up and realised that the man opposite me had his trousers undone and his bits in his hand, and was giving me a very self-satisfied look. I'm not the sort of person who is traumatised by this sort of thing, but I was really annoyed to find myself completely tongue-tied until we'd got off the train. Furthermore, my boyfriend, who is short-sighted, doesn't believe it happened. What should I do if a similar circumstance should arise again?

Katy, Fulham

It's odd how men never seem to notice these things going on right under their noses. Is it that they are simply supremely unobservant? Do women have more powerful penis-sensors than men (and, come to that, do gay men spot incidents of self-exposure more regularly than heterosexual ones)? Or might it just be that men who expose themselves tend to do it to women and not to other men - except, of course, in public lavatories or inner- city open spaces?

Either way, the only way to stop men thinking that we're a load of neurotics who see things that aren't there is to make a big song and dance about it at the time. As long, of course, as the carriage you're in is crowded; if it's empty, your best advice would be to get off at the next stop.

You need nerves of steel and good lungs for this. Take a deep breath, point at the miscreant and shout "Excuse me! You in the blue suit/ raincoat/ moustache/ with the silly grin! Did you know your trousers have fallen open and you have your penis in your hand?" Then sit back and enjoy the confusion as the flasher tries to bundle himself back inside under the gaze of a Tube train full of people. Do not try the old "Mmm, it's just like a penis, only smaller" line, as, as a woman, it is still your duty to the future of the population that the size-doesn't-matter myth be perpetuated.

In terms of table placement, does a celebrity chef go above or below a celebrity interior designer?

Stefan, Cambridge

I wouldn't worry about it too much, Stefan. Neither of them will want to sit still for more than five minutes anyway. Please make sure you have enough bathrooms, though.

I'm really not happy with my GP, but I'm too embarrassed, to sack him, as he lives close to me and we bump into each other regularly.

What should I do?

Daisy, Eastbourne

Suggest to the police that they might like to exhume a couple of dozen of his former patients. His entire list will melt away overnight, so he won't notice one extra disappearing. And if you're still too embarrassed to leave his practice, he'll be so grateful for your loyalty that you can be sure of gold-star treatment from then on.

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