Modern Manners: Your Cut-Out-And-Keep Guide To Surviving The Minefield

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The Independent Culture
Dear Serena,

I know that I should stand up for older people on buses and trains, but what exactly constitutes an older person? And at what point do you stop being someone who stands up for other people?

George, Leicester

If wondering about who should be standing or sitting, do this simple sex test. Look around the people standing up. If someone looks, in your opinion, too old to have sex, you should be standing up for them. If, when looking around, you find that no one looks too old, you can probably accept that the time has come to remain seated.

My mime act seems to be wearing a bit thin, which I don't really understand, as the troupe I used to do it with seem to have no trouble pulling audiences. I think I might have to take another career path. Can you think of an unusual gimmick I could use to revive my fortunes?

Geri, London NW1

Have you thought about taking up singing? I hear it's frightfully popular these days, and can draw audiences of tens.

How does one address a New-Age guru? My daughter's is coming to lunch. And what should I feed him?

Marjorie, Kettering

You don't have to address him as anything. If he's like any of the other New-Age gurus I've met, he'll be doing most of the addressing himself. And the advantage of the current crop of gurus is that they are not, on the whole, particularly ascetic, having, most of them, taken their lead from the gospel of prosperity as preached by your average evangelist church. A pleasant but informal lunch of a little farm-smoked salmon, caviar, truffle oil and chilled white wine should do the trick. Don't go overboard on the wine: a case of vintage Pouilly Fume should be fine.

My assets have been frozen and I am being forced to live on a fixed income. Can you tell me, how the hell am I supposed to live on a measly five grand a month?

Nick, No Fixed Abode

Popcorn is very nutritious, and Coca-Cola has a high calorific content. I'm sure if you pop into your local cinema and offer to do a couple of personal appearances, they will help you out with a few mega-buckets.

At a wedding where both sets of parents have remarried and all of them hate each other, who should sit on the high table and where should the others sit?

Worried, Altrincham

Oh, lord. For god's sake, elope. If your parents can't bring themselves to act like adults, sack the lot of them and have a lovely time in the Maldives with your two best friends.

If you're fool enough to go ahead, dispense with a high table and make them jolly well fend for themselves. Whatever you do, have a minimum of five tables, one for each set of parents and one for yourselves so you can at least enjoy your own meal in peace.

These crowds of people who keep lining up outside the passport office in Petty France are an embarrassment, not to mention a serious inconvenience for anyone who wants to have a good lunch in the area. How can I get them to disperse?

Tony, London SW1

What do you think the criminal justice bill is for, Tony? I know you're loath to give your predecessors any credit, but they brought it in just for this sort of eventuality, and it's up to you to make the most of it. The minute the queue gets longer than three, round the buggers up and slap them in prison. They won't be wanting to go on hols in a hurry then, will they?

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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